Occupiers are still unsure what space they will need in the future while working patterns evolve.

Guests at the Thames Tap round table on January 27 were asked their perceptions on the future of the office as enquiries for large amounts of space reduce and enquiries for better quality space increase, while at the same time, working patterns change.

SEGRO director Jo Jackson said: “I think there’s a lot of corporates that aren’t quite sure yet what they need or when they need it. Is it hub and spoke? Are they going to have a London HQ? What model are they doing? What do their staff want? And what position are they going to be in?

“And if they haven’t got a lease event coming up, why would they make a decision on anything instead of waiting it out a little bit?

Laura Fitzgerald, partner with mode Transport, described the experience of moving from serviced offices at Spaces in Greyfriars Road, Reading last year.

She said: “We had a look around all the serviced offices in the town and I couldn’t believe the variation in price and quality.

“You’ve got Thames Tower where it’s £500 a desk. You have a lot there and you’re right by the station. But, actually, when you look at other offices in the town which are only a few minutes walk from the station, there’s no justification to be at that address to give you what you need.

“And actually, we did go for quality and we got it cheaper because went to Broad Street Mall.”

The desire for some to work from home had made employers seek out more quality space.

Brian Dowling, partner at Boyes Turner, sympathised with young people coming into law who had been stuck at their parents’ homes trying to work during lockdown.

He said: “Lawyers are meant to be informally teaching people all the time and we do worry that we can’t do that through Teams.  You can only bother people and you can only look at spreadsheets showing their output.”

He said ‘team days’ were a help when all members would come to the office. And he said he sympathised with staff who joined during lockdown and were now moving on but hadn’t had the chance to become part of the company culture.

Mrs Jackson revealed the recruitment experience SEGRO had discovered recently.

She said: “We’ve done quite a bit of recruitment in the last six month and there’s a very big question around ‘what’s your flexible working policy?’

“And some recruiters are saying, ‘if you’re not going to offer one or two days at home, we are probably not going to find anyone for you’.

Haslams’ Mike Shearn reported that long hours and weekend working are out of favour with the young.

He added: “Young people don’t want that anymore so we’ve got to change or we won’t recruit anyone.”

David Jones from Evans Jones pointed to positive and negative impacts of the wider geographical market for recruitment and Charles Bushe from DevComms described the concept of opening a new office when recruitment dictates.

He said:  “I think this point about access to a bigger labour market it is an interesting one because what we found is, companies are going out and finding the right person for the role and, if you happen to have a critical mass of people in the same location, they say ‘ok we’ll open an office there’.

“In the past you might have said ‘I want to open an office in Manchester, Birmingham or London’ but now you think ‘we’ve got a lot of people in Norwich so we’ll open a Norwich office’.

“We’ve had the same thing, we’ve had a load of people working in London so we’ve said ‘ok let’s open some London space’. That was actually based on the fact that we had some people there and we wanted some space.”

The line up (l-r in image)

Back Row: Mike Shearn, chief operations officer, Haslams, David Jones, managing director, Evans Jones, Phil Brown, head of office, Savills Reading.

Middle Row: Matthew Battle, managing director, UK Property Forums, Charles Bushe, director, DevComms, Joanne Bruce, marketing manager, Evans Jones.

Steve Woodford, managing director, Haslams, Jo Jackson, director Thames Valley, SEGRO, Laura Fitzgerald, director, mode Transport, Brian Dowling, partner, Boyes Turner

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