Exploring the Need for Future Office Space and How to Achieve a Smart, Sustainable and Flexible Work Environment

The last few years have permanently changed the workplace experience in a way nobody could have predicted and provided challenges but also opportunities for companies to maximise efficiencies in space and costs while meeting employee expectations.

Understanding the Changing Need for Office Space:

In 2022, interest in hybrid working has risen from 13% to 24% from February to May. The percentage working exclusively from home has fallen from 22% to 14% in the same period, according to Office for National Statistics

The LSH property survey found that the need for office space was reduced by 20% compared to before the pandemic. More than 15 times as much office space as the One Canada Square skyscraper in London’s Canary Wharf, equivalent to a 26 million sq. ft.

Change of working behaviour:

Today’s forward-thinking businesses offer hybrid and remote working arrangements not to keep their workers safe from viruses but as a benefit to the company and employees.  The ONS study found that 84% of employees wanted to continue splitting their time between home and the office (Hybrid working) even after the Covid restrictions pulled out.

While the average office usage rate had increased in the last year (as shown in the graph), it has yet to reach the pre-pandemic levels. For example, workplace visits in Central London are still more than 30% down compared to before the pandemic.

The most common hybrid working pattern shows a shift towards employees spending more working hours at home and sometimes at their office (42%). As reported by LHS, only 15% of staff spent at least four days a week in the office, compared to 90% before the pandemic. While 43% and 29% of staff attended the office for two or three days a week, respectively.

Meanwhile, the days in the middle of the week have higher occupancy rates, averaging 36% between Tuesday and Thursday. At the same time, Monday and Friday have the lowest occupancy rate of 26% and 19%, respectively. 

The Benefits of Having a Smart & Sustainable Office Space for businesses:

Lower office occupancy rates can benefit companies by reducing their occupational costs by downsizing office space while boosting employee satisfaction and productivity.

The big issue is the wide variation in office attendance across the week, which leaves valuable office space empty with an average occupancy rate of three days a week. At a time when heating and lighting space is increasingly costly, this is a waste of an expensive asset and money. Generating value from office space on low attendance days and encouraging workers into the office on these less popular days could be critical challenges for employers.

Additionally, the ONS discovered that 78% of hybrid employees mentioned improved work-life balance as the key benefit of working from home for at least part of the week. Meanwhile, 52% of hybrid workers told the survey that they preferred working from home as there were fewer distractions. In comparison, 47% claimed improved well-being because of increased home working.

However, many companies stress the importance of workers spending time in the office to ensure more experienced colleagues can pass on skills to younger staff members and encourage greater collaboration.

Rethinking how office space is managed over the course of the week and future planning provides real benefits for reducing costs, energy savings and employee well-being.

Innovative Technologies Improving the Future of Office Spaces:

Hybrid working is here to stay. While this has advantages for both employees and employers, a key challenge for occupiers is how to maximise office space utilisation across the working week.

This could mean closing or part-closing offices on quieter days, using serviced offices to supplement core offices on busier days, or even hiring out excess space to other organisations on low-use days. These changes in occupants’ behaviour and working make companies consider how much office space they need post-covid and what kind of space they require. 

In order to have accurate insight into the utilised, under-utilised or over-utilised spaces in an office, it is critical to have live occupancy numbers throughout the whole week. The analysed data and automatic changes to heating and lighting systems will shape the future of office spaces.   Automation is now widely recognised as a critical way to offer a fast and effective solution for space optimisation and cost reduction.

Implementing smart building technology and smart sensors plays a crucial role in these strategies. Energy monitoring systems and environmental monitoring tools, including CO2 monitors and air quality sensors, ensure that the workspace remains healthy and energy-efficient. Furthermore, effective space management technologies can help optimise the usage of physical spaces, adapting to daily needs based on real-time data.

Workplace strategy now requires a dynamic approach that integrates these technologies to foster an agile and adaptive environment. The analysed data and automatic adjustments to heating and lighting systems based on smart sensor feedback will shape the future of office spaces. Automation is now widely recognised as a critical way to offer a fast and effective solution for space optimisation and cost reduction.

This approach ensures that the office space not only meets the functional needs but also contributes to the well-being and productivity of its occupants, aligning with modern workplace strategies.