September 2020 Removals & Storage 31
Working from home. A lot of articles have
already been penned about the death of the office. These
suggest that an increasing number of people will work
from home in future, having done so without problems
during the lockdown. But not all businesses share that
prediction. Many believe that homeworking will stay for
the remainder of the year but will morph into flexible
working after that: an environment in which people
spend some time in the office and some at home.
We’ve heard of companies that want to end their lease
and either move somewhere smaller or even do without
an office in the longer term. They see now as the time to
make a clean break and make working from home the
new normal. But the advice in the industry is to not be too
hasty when giving up space. Let things settle down and
see how it pans out. We believe the office will be back.
Closing collaborative and creative
workspace. Until now, on-trend workspace design was
aimed at introducing areas where people would meet
and collaborate in the office. Small pods, for instance,
that provided a large screen and cosy atmosphere to
inspire ideas and creativity. That’s going to change.
It’s certainly gone for this year, though don’t bank on
it disappearing altogether. Some designers believe that
attitudes will change within a year, and that people will
once again feel more confident in the office provided
that Covid-19 is under control.
The long-term view
No more hotdesking? We have spent 10 years
getting everyone used to agile working and hotdesking,
but with one eye permanently on the next pandemic it
is hard to see that trend surviving.
Many businesses may go back to a much more fixed
position. If you sit down at a hotdesk there’s a keyboard
and mouse and possibly a docking station and phone,
all of which have been used by someone else who sat
there yesterday. Unless you have a cleaning regime in
which every keyboard and every mouse is cleaned every
few hours, then agile working does not work in the
current conditions. That could be a real game-changer
in the industry.
Ironically, it could also save the big office, because
it means that businesses do still need the footprint to
incorporate all those desks. If a company has 5,000
employees and wants 2,000 of them in the office, there
will need to be space.
Cleaning regimes. These are likely to be here to
stay. There will be a much bigger focus on sanitising
the office environment. We’ll see cleaning done on a
regular rota, either overnight in smaller businesses or
throughout the day in larger operations. Now that the
public has a heightened awareness of hygiene, it’s an
issue that won’t go away.
Protecting against a future pandemic
through design and location. When businesses
go through tough times, they inevitably plan to ensure
they can survive trauma in future. This happens in
recessions, for instance, when companies centralise and
decentralise. When they are growing, they all want to be
in the city offices. When things crash, they scatter out to
Since the biggest fear for employees at present
is transport, over the next few years we might see
companies come away from the large 40- to 50-storey
buildings and move to business parks that people can
drive to rather than take the Tube. Offices where you can
use the stairs instead of lifts will be more popular, too.
New design trends. There is sure to be some
future design based around the pandemic. In the past,
Europe has been relatively shielded from epidemics, but
Covid-19 will make designers think again. In China,
they were already more equipped in their ways of
working because of previous outbreaks. But the biggest
trend we will see in the short term is people leaving their
large city offices behind and moving to suburbia. New
design trends will follow as a result.
Office resale. Re-using and redistributing
office furniture is a trend that we see continuing as
businesses look to equip employees with better furniture
and equipment when they work at home. Crucially,
businesses remain liable for the health and safety of
employees even when they work outside of the office. We
have seen major clients allowing staff to purchase home
office setups and claim this back.
Office or no office?
One of the most significant questions being asked
at present is whether or not Covid-19 will mean the
death of the office. Some experts believe it could, since
employees have become so adept at working from home
that businesses will opt to save money by not having an
office at all. Companies, even in the legal sector, will
use virtual meetings instead of dragging people into big
cities, and use scan-on-demand technology to ensure
vital documentation can be assessed safely and without
the need for a physical office space.
But the voices urging caution are louder. Businesses
have seen that homeworking can work, yet from a
mental health perspective many believe it is not the way
forward. Employees need community and a space to
share, at least some of the time.
While the prevalence of agile working will almost
certainly decrease in the near future, office space is
still required for getting people together in a real way.
Blending may prove to be the buzzword in 2021 as the
two worlds come together, but the office isn’t about to
disappear for good.
This article was first published
on This Week in FM in July 2020.
For more information, visit
What are your views on this
topic? Is the office a vestige
of a pre-Covid world or is it
here to stay? Let us know by
emailing your ideas to rands-editorial@