Most companies didn't expect their main problem in 2020 to be a pandemic. But pandemic or not, there are countless reasons why many of today's traditional offices aren't fit for purpose. We're mainly talking about business agility here, the need to scale up and down your office size, to be able to adapt at short notice. Where the time it takes to sort out a new office space and move in is counted in days rather than months.

We're living through a time of a mass social and business upheaval and its effects will linger on in many forms. The new normal of flexible and remote working mean it's time to reassess the whole strategy for places of work. Many businesses are currently choosing whether either: everyone will now work from home, or everyone will go back to the office. But for knowledge work at least, the sweet spot probably lies in a model that blends the two because–despite all the advantages of home working–many crucial decisions still require physical collaboration and body language cues. It's about organising so that the advantages of both modes can be realised.

We've put together a view on some of the options available to companies in the UK. There is no one size fits all solution, trialling some of the below with a portion of your employees would allow you to work out which might work best for you.

1. Employees self-serve

Finance team distribute staff office budgets and individuals decide which nearby office is most convenient for them
Employees decide on a nearby office using their budget

What is the model

Allow individual employees to pick a space at a location convenient to them, decentralising your office (at least for the time being).

The benefits

  • People can choose whether to work from home or not, take a private office or a desk with a serviced office provider, or do a bit of both. It is a solution that works for all.
  • People don't have to make lengthy commutes at a time where commuting may give them anxiety.
  • Those who feel they can't work from home have somewhere to go to offer them focussed working time.

Who this suits

  • Companies that are embracing a remote first culture but understand that this doesn't work for everyone.
  • Companies who have employees with sizeable commutes.
  • Individuals who do not have an optimised home working set up (flat-shares, no space, large families etc.)

How to do it

  • While deals might be found by going with a single provider to achieve this, there is no single provider with enough distribution to accommodate everyone.
  • Empowering employees or teams by providing them with a budget and allowing them to find spaces that work for them seems like the logical answer.
  • Once you've given them a budget establish a process for expensing the cost of the office or a method for paying on their behalf.
  • Book a free zoom call with us if you'd like more advice on this option.

2. Hub & Spoke

A diagram showing a reduced central office in central London with smaller satellite offices further towards the outskirts near commuters homes
A reduced central office with smaller satellite offices

What is the model

Find a central office with a focus on meeting rooms and event space, but offer satellite centres either through memberships or smaller office requirements.

The benefits

  • Your HQ becomes more focussed on what it should be - a space for everyone to come together and where your key meetings take place.
  • A good compromise solution between working from home and working from HQ every day.
  • More effective at creating or retaining a company culture.
  • You should be able to accommodate most people's needs, although it's not as flexible as the employee self-serve model.  

Who this suits

  • Larger sized companies with a workforce who would otherwise be commuting from all sorts of different locations.
  • Organisations that host events, regularly have all-hands meetings in person or need a central location for client/partner meetings.
  • Companies who's employees no longer want to commute but have also become weary/questioned the effectiveness of working from home.

How to do it

  • Having an understanding of where your employees are based is crucial to getting this right so start here.
  • Find a central location where the commute times are reasonable for most of your employees.
  • Identify potential useful satellite offices and trial the appetite of these through offering relevant employees memberships.
  • If the trials are a success extend to more people and consider getting offices in those locations.
  • Book a free zoom call with us if you'd like more advice on this option.

3. Fully remote with ad hoc space

A diagram showing all employees working remotely and using ad-hoc space in central London as needed for company or client meetings
Staying remote and using ad-hoc space for certain meetings

What is the model

Stay fully remote but identify providers of ad-hoc space for the occasional company or client meeting.

The benefits

  • A significant cost saving with absolutely no long term liability.
  • Convenience for employees who prefer to work from home.
  • Almost no commute times.

Who this suits

  • Smaller companies
  • Companies who are remote first and need little face to face time with colleague, partners or clients.
  • Companies where employee's commute times would on average be extremely high (irrespective of where they based themselves).

How to do this

  • There's not a lot to do for this model if, like most of us, you have been working from home for months. However surveying your employees to make sure this is something desirable and checking productivity is not down is a good start.
  • We would then recommend optimising everyone's home set up so they have an effective working environment at home.
  • Finally find a provider in a central location that has plenty of meeting rooms and event space. You may need to purchase a single membership at this point.
  • Book meeting rooms or event space as and when you need it.
  • Book a free zoom call with us if you'd like more advice on this option.

4. Downsize & memberships

A diagram showing a reduced central London office (on a monthly rolling contract) plus hot desking memberships for multiple staff in other offices spread around further out London locations
A reduced central office (monthly contract) plus hotdesking

What is the model

Take up an office in a central location that is a fraction of the size, ensure it's on a monthly rolling contract and get the rest of your team hot desk memberships.

The benefits

  • No long term liability so if there's further disruption through eg. another lockdown, then only a tiny amount of capital is at risk.
  • Gives you long term access to a space for your team to convene.
  • Allows you to scale up easily if needed.

Who this suits

  • Companies who's employees are feeling they need a central base.
  • Organisations who need to regularly run workshops or have meetings with clients and partners.
  • Companies who are nervous about taking on long term costs.

How to do this

  • Explore options for a serviced office that meet your needs. Remember, do this at a fraction of your total headcount (you can do this on upmo.com).
  • Make sure you negotiate a very flexible contract, preferably a rolling one that has easy break clauses.
  • Figure out how much of your workforce wants to start coming in and get memberships for them.
  • Use your office for meetings and focus sections and the membership for your day to day work.
  • Book a free zoom call with us if you'd like more advice on this option.

A crucial part of being prepared for the new normal is to be informed and compare the options and deals available now all across London (that's where upmo.com can help). We deal exclusively with flexible office solutions so with all options available on our site you can trial them and then scale them once they have proven to work for you. It's unlikely that the future of business is in having one big office; more and more it's about being able to adapt to an uncertain future.

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