No plans to return to offices for millions of employees of the UK’s biggest companies

Just under half (24) of 50 of the biggest companies in the UK said they have no plans to return staff to the office yet.

While 20 said they had opened their office for staff who were unable to work from home, it seems likely that most employees will be working from home for the foreseeable future, as many companies are struggling to find a way of accommodating their staff while social distancing.

Many companies are also keen to offer a high level of flexibility and choice to their staff on when and how they return to the office, with a greater focus being put on work life balance and the mental health of employees at work.

While some businesses have confirmed that they won’t even begin to bring staff back until much further down the line (Facebook have announced they are not planning a return to the office until July 2021), others have decided to abandon their office altogether.

For smaller businesses in particular, leaving offices sitting empty will be a major drain on their resources, and for those who can’t or don’t want to bring staff back it may seem a clear decision to give up their office and switch to a permanent work from home model.

Tara Tomes, owner of a PR agency with a team of eight, said: “I personally don’t want to force my team back onto public transport.

“Not having four walls around us won’t change the dynamic or culture of the team. If anything it will make us more pioneering in the way the world of work is going.”

What are the implications?

While the decision to keep offices closed or give them up altogether may seem straightforward, there will be a knock-on effect on other businesses and employees.

Some businesses rely on the income generated by large offices nearby to sustain them, such as cafés and coffee shops. For some of these small businesses, who may already be struggling to reopen, a lack of office workers returning to key areas could mean almost certain closure.

More worrying for some companies will be the implications of long term working from home on their employees. While some employees will be happy to work at home for the foreseeable future, particularly as it could mean cost savings and an end to the dreaded commute, for others it may mean no alternative to working from the foot of their bed or at a kitchen table with the rest of their household.

Mathew Hammond, chairman of the Midlands region for PwC, emphasised the importance his company put on their staff having the right working environment. He told the BBC: “As employers we invest a huge amount in providing the right environment, the right seating, the right technology so people can be at their most productive.”

While many larger companies will be able to open their offices for just those workers who need it, where does that leave the employees of smaller businesses who are shutting their office for good or holding off on reopening them?

One solution could be flexible coworking spaces that allow businesses or individuals to rent desks as and when they need them. This would allow select workers to still enjoy the benefits of a dedicated office with significantly reduced costs compared to renting a private office space large enough for all employees.

Coworking offices can also be a great option for businesses who still want to touch base with their staff a few days a month, as they can use flexible memberships to give them access only when they need it.

Using a coworking space also removes the burden of facilitating social distancing and providing a clean and safe environment from the employer, as this will all be taken care of by the workspace provider.

If you think a coworking space could be the right choice for you or your employees as you transition away from traditional offices, book a tour to come and take a look around SO Fourteen, a professional coworking space in the heart of Southampton.

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