City firms may axe office space in London as the demand for remote working forces them to review how much square-footage they need.
A survey by the Confederation of British Industry and professional services firm PwC has found that 74 per cent of London-based banks and insurance firms are re-assessing their office requirements.
Of the 133 firms that took part, 88 per cent said COVID-19 had resulted in a more significant shift towards working from home with more than 90 per cent of their workers able to do their jobs without being tied to a physical office.
A separate study by MobileIron of 1,200 workers across the US, UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand, found that more than 80 per cent don’t want to return to their office – at least not full time.
Employees and their managers are questioning the high cost of city office space, the safety of working in the centre of London or any other city as the pandemic persists.
A report by Cardiff and Southampton Universities suggests that most people are as productive when working from home, if not more so.
Given that people working from home are among the most productive, “preventing them from choosing how they work in the future does not make economic sense,” said Professor Alan Felstead from Cardiff University.
Some companies are already making a permanent shift to more home working. Microsoft has told staff that they will have the option of working from home permanently with manager approval. Facebook and Twitter have also said remote work will be a permanent option.
However, Professor Nicholas Bloom from Stanford University in the US did extensive research last year into emerging working patterns. He said many companies are considering policies that combine two days a week at home with three days at the office. But the office will remain necessary for meetings, building company culture and loyalty and for essential mental health.
Gary Jowett, from Computer & Network Consultants in Brighton, said: “Recent news of effective vaccines being developed may change some businesses’ attitudes towards remote working. However, it’s also evident that the pandemic has accelerated existing trends towards more flexible working and given senior managers increased confidence in the effectiveness of a range of new technologies that help teams meet ‘face-to-face’ in a virtual environment and share information securely. But it’s wise to seek independent advice before making fundamental changes to your operational infrastructure to ensure your virtual solutions are the most appropriate for your business needs.”