News release

Pandemic pushes mid-sized businesses to reduce office space

As the UK continues its third national lockdown and homeworking remains the norm for many, new research from Grant Thornton’s International Business Report* finds that over one third (39%) of UK mid-sized companies** expect to reduce the amount of office space they hold in the future.

Of those who expect to reduce their space, 74% anticipate decreasing their existing footprint by up to a quarter (10%-25% reduction). A further 12% expect to reduce their office space by up to a half (26%-50% reduction).

While many businesses may be looking to reduce the amount of space they hold, the research shows that there is still a need and want for some corporate space - but how it will be used is likely to change.

The survey found that there was not a consistent view as to how office space may be used in the future. Many anticipate a greater focus on more internal collaborative team activity, rather than regular desk-based activity, along with increased use as a meeting, event, and collaboration space for clients.

There was also an expectation from some that different departments and teams will visit the office on rotation on pre-determined days.

Commenting on the findings John Burgess, Associate Director, Real Estate and Assets, Grant Thornton UK LLP, said:

“Our research shows that as home working becomes the norm, and demand for office space reduces, businesses will be looking to scale back their property portfolios and optimise spaces to suit new working models.

“It’s clear that there is still a need for a corporate space and, while there has been much talk of the ‘death of the office’, what we’re seeing is more of an evolution. Teams still need to meet each other and many organisations will need dedicated space to meet clients and host events. The nature and purpose of office space is likely to change to accommodate the different ways of working, and there will be a focus on reducing space gradually over time.

“There is also likely to be a shift from habitual daily desk-based working, to a much greater focus on planned collaboration time with teams and with clients. This change in working style, which is expected to continue to some extent post-pandemic, provides a chance for companies to reimagine their offices and create spaces for their people, clients, customers and stakeholders to use collaboratively, and more strategically.

“The split view across respondents as to how they anticipate their space being used going forward also demonstrates the need for bespoke solutions. Businesses need to ensure that any review of their space, and how they use it going forward, meets both the needs of their people – which are likely to have changed over the last year - and the unique requirements of their business.”

Notes

*The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) is a survey of mid-market businesses. Questionnaires are translated into local languages and fieldwork is undertaken on a biannual basis, through both online and telephone interviews. The data for this release is from interviews conducted between October - December 2020 with chief executive officers, managing directors, chairperson or other senior executives from all industry sectors. The survey included 275 UK respondents.

** The UK mid-market is categorised as companies with revenue between £15 million - £1 billion.