Will the office ever be the same again?

Clark Holt Commercial Solicitors on how virtual working and rural locations could become part of the new normal.

 

In mid-March this year many businesses locked up the physical office, waved goodbye to their employees (with laptops under wing) to fully embrace a “work from home” lifestyle and swiftly got used to the new virtual office culture via Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Many have been surprised that actually this transition was easier than they thought; their businesses are still up and running. Yes, there are some downsides (e.g. missing office banter/team spirit and a sense of feeling a part of something), but there are upsides too and I for one have been enjoying swopping my daily commute for (at last) finding time to fit exercise into my day on a regular basis.

It seems that this Covid-19 crisis has perhaps forced the death of the “presenteeism”/”bums on seats” office mentality and many of us are starting to rethink what “the office” will be like going forward.

So, what next? Boris says: get used to the new normal. What will that be? It seems we are witnessing the birth of a healthier office/working life regardless of whether Covid-19 is eradicated or not. This should be embraced and a new balance is in the process of being found by many people.

As a commercial property lawyer, I am finding this interesting. Clients are starting to rethink their office needs and this thought process seems to be much broader than simply do we need such a large office still?

Some are now considering serviced office accommodation with all the informal business networking and lifestyle benefits that go with that- especially if there is a garden roof terrace or a gym! Others are looking for more rural locations and there are some pretty stunning farm courtyard and barn conversions out there, which add to a sense of wellbeing upon arriving at work.

We are fortunate in the Swindon area to be able to source both serviced office accommodation and rural office locations in the glorious surrounding Wiltshire/Gloucestershire/Oxfordshire countryside, plus enjoy the transport connectivity that having an office in southern central England provides.

Landowners and developers also have this office culture shift on their radar and one would expect to see some changes going forward and hopefully new or revamped office stock.

As to what to do if you are tied into an office lease, we at Clark Holt can help you with that. There might be a break option that can be exercised, you might be able to negotiate a surrender deal with the landlord, you might be able to sublet (all or part of the office space) or assign the lease to a new tenant.

It seems we are all re-evaluating many things in our lives currently and there are a lot of positives coming out of the pandemic situation. There are options. Explore them.

 

Renata Lovat Short
Associate Commercial Real Estate Solicitor,
Clark Holt, Swindon.


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