19 March 2021
Topics in this article
  • Cost Optimization
  • Property & FM

Observations from Geoff Elliott and Tim Deeker-Harris.

In the last year, we have seen huge transformations in the workplace, with most employees uprooted from their desks and cascaded into remote working. Through this, we have seen a broader debate develop around the future of the workplace, as businesses look ahead to some form of office working.

Beyond the obvious challenges and opportunities that remote working has presented for staff and employers; it has also proven that employees can work productively at home. These findings are synonymous with our 2021 Finance Leaders Outlook Report, which found that 58% of UK and 47% of US finance leaders expected some form of remote working to remain in place permanently.

But as companies look to evaluate their physical workplace post-COVID, there are four factors all business leaders should be considering.

Re-imagine your physical space

As businesses anticipate hybrid home and office working for staff, there is a need to re-imagine the physical spaces of offices and its use.

With agile working likely to remain a key feature of the modern workplace, there will be a desire for the office space to supplement collaborative working. This means more flexible meeting rooms and on-demand spaces to support business agility, with fewer permanent desks. This will in turn reimagine the office as a center for innovation, rather than a 9-5 workspace.

Consider your office leasing arrangements

Remote working developments are having huge ramifications for real estate and tenants, as they consider existing leases and whether they will downsize or move further from city centers.

The trends are likely to drive greater competition among property developers and real estate, necessitating greater flexibility in their offerings, with shorter leases and the ability for tenants to renegotiate their agreements. Landlords will need to invest in the refurbishment of spaces to attract and retain tenants, with some companies likely to take advantage of short-term lease opportunities with brands like Spaces and WeWork.

An oversupply of city center office space and rise in demand for out-of-city or suburban workspaces is expected, as work increasingly revolves less around the city. Flexibility and choice will become the watchwords for businesses going forward.

Cleanliness should remain a priority

As companies plan for office re-openings, it is imperative leaders assess their cleaning supplier contracts to ensure they are fit for purpose.

During the re-opening of workplaces last year, many companies were left feeling unsupported and unhappy with the cleaning services in place and it’s key they do not make the same mistakes again.

Returning staff will likely have an increased awareness and perception of hygiene, meaning companies must use cleaning contractors who are experienced and can offer this reassurance to employees.

Furthermore, cleaning contractors will be responsible for adapting and innovating with the times. The previously invisible service of cleaning may have to become more visible with the introduction of enhanced daytime cleaning just one example of this.

Having the right suppliers and service providers in place now, will ensure you can provide a safe environment for your staff and means one less hurdle to overcome when transitioning back into the workplace.

Harness technology

A final consideration for employers is to optimize the technology they have in place, to complement the re-opening of their office.

Most companies will need some form of occupancy monitoring system or technology to ensure safe levels of employees in the working space.

Investing in such technology will allow staff to reserve days of the week and specific desks in the office. This will allow businesses to manage their office whilst providing a safe-space and environment for employees in a post-COVID world.

There will also be a need for businesses to consider consistent occupancy ratios through the working week – avoiding a bell-shaped distribution, with employees predominantly coming in on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

How procurement can help

Procurement will play a central role in ensuring business leaders are on the front foot when it comes to reimagining the future of the workplace when employees ‘fully’ return to the office.

Whether that is supporting the renegotiation of real estate agreements with landlords to drive down operating costs or establishing contracts with technology and cleaning service suppliers to manage your facilities, procurement has much to offer.

When leaders are considering how best to organize their future workplace, procurement should be front of mind in helping you realize these ambitions at every stage, ensuring a safe and effective transition back to the office.

Read more on what US and UK business leaders think about remote working and other key topics in our 2021 Finance Leaders Outlook by clicking below.

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