37% of companies consider a downsize in office space

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In a recent survey carried out by recruiter ‘Robert Walters’ found that 37% of businesses in Ireland are considering a downsize in office space. The recruitment company gauged the opinions of management and staff in over 2,200 companies worldwide for this survey. 

The survey found that pre Covid-19 some companies were considered role models due to their innovative offices. Companies, especially in the tech field, seemed to find themselves in an office battle, trying to differentiate themselves by offering luxuries such as baristas, onsite gyms and game rooms. What all these offices have in common, is that they are based on an open office plan. This layout allows for little space between workers. Some experts say that the open floor plan can be redesigned to ensure employees’ safety. Others say the pandemic is the final straw for the open office. Health risks aside, for those workers that feel more productive when working from home, a move away from open office plans could be beneficial. However, it must be remembered that a remote working model and a more closed office style doesn’t suit all personality types or business models. Downsizing office space could be another workplace trend in the aftermath of Covid-19. Currently, 37% of organisations are considering a reduction in the size of their premises.

Covid-19 launched the world’s largest remote working experiment. Traditional business processes and working practices evolved in a matter of days as employees were
forced to work remotely overnight. Business leaders’ biggest fear was a decrease in productivity, but 32% of professionals surveyed believed that their productivity
remained stable, and 45% saw their output increase. In light of these findings businesses may have to reevaluate their working models, indeed 73% of businesses
surveyed plan to allow more frequent working from home. Should organisations introduce more flexible working practices, then it is vital that guidelines and rules are
established, as 56% of employees feel that current policies lack clarity. IT infrastructure is another area that requires change, as 30% of employees feel that their IT systems are not adequate for remote working. Whilst greater working flexibility is here to stay, business leaders have been advised to proceed with caution, as
many commentators emphasise the importance of face to face relationships and communication to workplace dynamics.

The survey also found that 93% of workers would like more opportunities to work from home when normal working life resumes post Covid. 11% of employees said they’d prefer to work from home full-time. On the employer side, 79% of respondents said that the experiences they’ve had with Covid-19 will encourage them to allow employees to work from home more often.

The survey found 86% of companies want to offer remote working to a greater degree after Covid-19. A partly flexible approach is favoured by most workers. 40% of professionals would opt to work at home at least one day per week. 27% of employees would like to limit working from home to a few days per month.

14% of companies indicate that they will choose not to adopt a more flexible work approach after Covid-19. The most traditional route of the four, companies choosing a full return to the office will need to closely monitor government regulations while increasing office attendance. A staggered return of employees is a must while social
distancing rules are in place. 39% of companies plan to split their employees into different shifts based on specific criteria, such as job function. 38% will use importance to business continuity as the criteria for staff returning. Safety is not only a concern while people are in the office. The use of public transportation can also put people at
risk. 35% of companies will therefore allow workers to travel outside of peak hours.

86% of companies want to offer remote working to a greater or lesser degree after Covid-19. A partly flexible approach is favoured by most workers. 40% of
professionals would opt to work at home at least one day per week. 27% of employees would like to limit working from home to a few days per month.
There are different ways of keeping workplace flexibility in place, such as creating smaller work groups so that people only come into the office for specific meetings or projects. This would result in people working from home a fixed number of days per week, or letting people book in office time based on their own needs.

The findings went on to state, ‘Moving entire teams to a remote working model can allow businesses to reduce their office space, resulting in significant cost savings. Personal preferences and working personalities aside, some jobs can be more easily carried out from home than others. An analysis of which roles transitioned smoothly to remote working can help in deciding which teams or functions can permanently be carried out from home. Based on our research, designers are most eager to work from home permanently (37%), followed by IT professionals (30%), and professionals in telephone customer service roles (27%). People in these departments do not need their colleagues next to them on any given day.

Also found in the survey, is that companies that have adopted a 100% remote model can mostly be found in the tech sector, with Gitlab, Zapier and Automatic leading the way, but not many organisations are expected to take the leap and drastically change to a fully remote working model. Those that do cite cost savings from less office space and the ability to recruit beyond a narrow geographical area, as the main motivators.

It went on to state “Once an approach has been chosen, it is key to set new ground rules and clearly communicate these to all employees. Keep communication two-way and continue to monitor the effects of previously made decisions on both employee health safety and mental wellbeing. Make sure you can explain why certain employees have different privileges than others. It is vital to realise that it is going to take time to adjust to the new situation. Some of your employees may have caregiver responsibilities that they cannot change from one day to another. Others may find it difficult to focus in an office environment after months of working from home. Empathy, transparency and clear communication are key in creating a smooth transition for everyone involved”.