Office occupiers are still adjusting to the amount of space they need after lockdown, delegates heard at the latest Reading Social.

Vail Williams partner Guy Parkes told around 50 delegates at the event at Green Park on Tuesday, February 6, workers are now back in the office for around three and a half days a week, most of them wanting the social interaction.

However, he said employers hadn’t always got their space requirements right.

He said: “What some people did was they went too soon. After Covid, they took less space. They are now finding they need more.”

Strategic reviews by employers as to their space requirements are only now being implemented, he said.

However he reported a stark difference between prime space and Grade B which is requiring ever more incentives to entice occupiers..

Adrian Norman, head of design for Morgan Lovell, said a survey of 500 bosses and directors showed the strongest requirement in the design of  offices now is towards workplace inclusion. Second is to encourage recruitment and retention, an issue employers rated their biggest challenge.

He said the office is now a factor in career moves by employees.

But another effect of home working during lockdown is that people cannot tolerate the same levels of noise in the office. Mr Norman said it makes ‘domestification’ of the workplace necessary.

“What we are going to do is putting more quiet spaces in. The reason we’ve done this is because research has shown that, due to the amount of time people have been spending locked in their living rooms and studies at home, the threshold for acoustics has actually dropped.

“So people are finding themselves distracted by what is now a noisier open plan environment. Because we are putting in open collaboration spaces in office areas, the noise levels are climbing and people’s resistance to that has actually dropped. It’s a real issue within the planning of offices.”

Quiet areas like those in train carriages are now being introduced.

Chris Early, head of acquisition at Freshwave, said better use of space both within organisations and between them is essential.

The meeting heard that better use of space is also crucial to the forthcoming move or redevelopment of the Royal Berks Hospital.

Alison Foster, programme director for Building Berkshire Together, the new hospital programme which is pushing to move to a new site, said that to build a new Royal Berkshire Hospital which meets new guidelines, the site would need to be a third bigger – and that is without any increase in activity.

Two sites are under consideration and the prospect of reusing office space is an option.

She said: “Converting office space to clinical space is something that’s been done in a few places around the country and the new hospital programme is looking to see what we can learn from that.”

Image (l-r): Chris Early, Alison Foster, Guy Parkes, Adrian Norman and Matthew Battle, managing director of UK Property Forums.

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