2022 – Office set for dramatic comeback?

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2022 – Office set for dramatic comeback?

The unique challenge the pandemic has posed to our office spaces was encapsulated last week when the Oxford English Dictionary updated its definition of ‘hybrid’ to include ‘hybrid working.’

Since March 2020, hybrid working has become fully embedded into our everyday working lives, forcing landlords to find ways to make their offices worth commuting to as we begin to emerge from the pandemic.

Over the last couple of years, businesses have been given flexibility to create spaces which suit them, and subsequently landlords have invested vast sums in making workspaces more enticing, offering a blend of comfortable working and traditional office space, including breakout spaces, designated brainstorming areas and quiet zones.

Although there is fiery debate ongoing about whether physical office spaces can survive long-term, the signs of a widespread rebound in office demand were clear throughout 2021, with the latest Omicron variant little more than a short-term hurdle.

This week EG reported that central London office investment has shot back up to pre-pandemic levels with investment standing at £12.3b in 2021, far outstripping 2020 volumes and equalling 2019’s total.

Just this morning Google announced it is making a billion-dollar bet on the future of in-office working in London with the acquisition of Central Saint Giles, an office development in the heart of the West End. The deal – worth a mere £730m – led Peter Bill (ex-editor of EG) to quip that the tech giant has more money than sense when it comes to property – although the acquisition is yet another sign of recovery.

The effects of the pandemic are certainly impacting the market less – in November the UK economy surpassed its pre-pandemic level for the first time after growing by 0.9% over the month, partly driven by an unexpected surge in early Christmas shopping.

So, as the country continues to rebuild and landlords adapt to businesses requirements, it is evident that there remains strong appetite for the physical office not just for employers but also among the workforce, who are craving the buzz that comes with face-to-face interactions now more than ever. The deterioration of mental health plays a role in this too – 25% of respondents to Deloitte’s latest London Office Crane Survey reported feelings of anxiety and 29% reported feelings of loneliness while working from home in 2020. Consequently, many argue workers will never leave the office for good.

Clearly, the pandemic has brought on a change of working culture, one in which flexible working businesses – like WeWork – have thrived. This week it was revealed that WeWork grew its desk sales by a fifth to 66,000 in December, while its membership base increased by 2.25% over the same period.

The Innesco team moved our traditional office space in Holborn and into our shared working space at Soho Works White City in June which has been a revelation, offering us flexibility whilst giving the team a chance facilitate connections and collaboration – something which is impossible to replicate at home.

As the debate surrounding the future of the office continues, there’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic. The last few months have shown that high-quality office space will continue to be in demand, and the workforce will be beneficiaries of the new, improved and varied offering these spaces boast. Look out – 2022 is the year the office comes back in fashion!

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