In the post-Covid-19 world in which we now live, chief executives from some of the biggest multi-nationals have taken a radical view of the amount of space which they occupy.  

The results are, potentially, not pretty for the real estate sector.

BP, one of the largest employers in the greater Thames Valley region with office locations in Sunbury and Pangbourne, has not said how many jobs will be lost in the UK but it is thought the figure could be close to 2,000 as the price of oil continues to drop.

Chief executive Bernard Looney blamed the drop in oil prices for the cuts. In an email to staff, he said: “The oil price has plunged well below the level we need to turn a profit.

“We are spending much, much more than we make – I am talking millions of dollars, every day.”

BP employs around 15,000 people in the UK. The firm’s office-based workers are expected to bear the brunt of the redundancies which will not affect any of its retail staff.

Joe Staley, chief executive at Barclays, responded to a question in April in a similar tone to that of his counterpart at BP.

“There will be a long-term adjustment in how we think about our location strategy…the notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past,” he told reporters after the bank reported a fall in first-quarter profits.

Twitter has announced: “We are uniquely positioned to respond quickly and allow folks to work from home, given our emphasis on decentralisation and supporting a distributed workforce, capable of working from anywhere. The past few months have proven we can make that work.”

One thing is for sure, change is coming and, for the Thames Valley, these are serious issues. In many respects the ubiquitous business park, which the region is so well known for, is positioned to benefit from companies who feel that higher density locations like London represent a risk not worth taking.

However, this argument only works if the companies actually start to re-populate their offices in the first place.

I get the feeling the next few months could be crucial for the future of the office.  

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