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Are Offices Still Relevant in a Post-Covid World?


With the current shift from office work to working from home, many have been questioning the future relevance of the physical office. This is a particularly pertinent question for a business like ours, focused on the office space and we wanted to share some thoughts here. Spoiler alert: we think offices are more relevant than ever!


For us, if one thing is clear it is that Covid has permanently changed the relationship between office workers and their office. Whatever remaining taboo there may have been around remote working is now gone. We now know that office workers no longer have to go into the office to be able to work.


However, as JLL explain in detail in their brilliant new report, jumping to the conclusion that remote working spells the end of the office is misguided. It may seem an odd comparison, but to us this is a bit like saying that given the right instruction and utensils anyone can cook a nice meal at home and so there’s need to go to a restaurant anymore. But it’s clear to us that just because you don’t have to do something, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t want to.


Given a good recipe many of us could (probably!) cook a fantastic meal at home, but we go out to a restaurant because we choose to. We want the atmosphere, the connection to the chef, the anticipation of waiting for our food, the small talk with the waiter… in essence we want the sights, the smells and the experience of dining out. There is an energy in a restaurant that is very hard to replicate at home.


There is a comparable dynamic between office workers and their office. As JLL’s research highlights, office workers want to go to the office because of the “human interaction, socializing with colleagues” and “collective face-to-face work that favors common understanding”. This is also supported by key stakeholders in the office real estate industry, including Landsec, British Land and JLL, who recently indicated in an Evening Standard article that they see a continued demand for London office space.


Colleagues want to go back to the office to ‘brainstorm’ and ‘ideate’ together. They want to pick up a pen and scribble something that illustrates a point, have a team meeting where people can have multiple side conversations and have casual impromptu chats with colleagues they cross in the lifts, all of which are rather harder over Zoom! British Land have written on this recently and they suggest that it’s the energy generated by in-person collaboration that drives innovation and creativity,“ the lifeblood of any business”.


Employees also want to feel a sense of common identity and common purpose with their coworkers. Being in a shared space, complete with company branding and visual reminders of the company values and shared activities are hugely powerful experiences. As JLL put it “corporate culture is created and strengthened when people come together in person”.

The importance of the sense of common purpose is particularly pronounced in millennials who in a number of recent surveys, including the Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019, place great importance on a business’ “purpose” and social contribution.” This is why we strongly believe that Covid greatly reinforces our business proposition.


At Square Mile Farms we are all about creating engagement and a community within the workplace. We believe that our farm walls can become a focal point for connections in the office where people can engage directly with the live edible wall (e.g. harvesting or taking part in a workshop) or passively (e.g. benefit from the overall office environment). Office farming can help to make the workspace a place that people want to go to, one that inspires creativity, fosters collaboration and improves employee wellbeing.


So, while it is inevitable that the office environment will change post-Covid and indeed the demand for square footage may actually go down in some instances in the short term, we believe that the reinvigorated purpose of the modern office is squarely about collaboration, engagement and community… which play neatly to our core proposition to employees and their employers.


Square Mile Farms bring urban farming to the workplace to the benefit of employee engagement and wellbeing. We install vertical farm walls and other productive green spaces in offices, and curate workshops, events and seminars to help create a culture of healthy, sustainable living. Find out more about our corporate offering and get in touch here with any queries. Sign up to our weekly newsletter for tips and advice on a healthy lifestyle and a round-up of relevant news. You can also follow us on social media to stay up to date with our journey, find us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Sources:

British Land, ‘The three Cs making people want to return to the office’

JLL, 'The Future of Global Office Demand'

Evening Standard, 'Analysis: As working from home is embraced, will there still be demand for London office space?' Deloitte, Deloitte Millenial Survey 2019.

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