- June 3, 2020
- 326 views
It is 1872. A galleon, adrift on the open sea, swirls of mist, no wind, with no sign of captain or crew. What happened?
Well, perhaps the Mary Celeste story sums up the kind of experience some of us have or will have when we return to our offices. What on earth has happened in only 8 weeks?
Such was the rapidity of exit many workstations and evidence of the world we lived at our offices and workstations remained exactly as left. All the paraphernalia. Bookshelves, filing cabinets, desk pedestals, meeting rooms, pictures of buildings (yep we have loads of them!), acres of stationary, printers, plotters, scanners, hole punchers,
binders and Sellotape for goodness sake! The list goes on and on. I can, hand on heart, report that I have not needed, thought I needed or missed anything inanimate – especially the inability to park!
No doubt office based businesses have (frankly) surprised themselves at how well their carefully thought through Continuity Plans have deployed so seamlessly. (No need to confess if you a) did not have one; b) had one but did not know you had one or c) had one but did not know where it was!)
So, what does this mean for offices?
Having worked successfully at home, held meetings digitally across the country and continents, it has surely brought into question why have an office? CEO’s up and down the country will have “£” in their eyes. Rent, rates, dropping straight through to the bottom-line profitability is surely a cause for celebration? Thoughts of what might have been had we taken that leap of faith in technology and staff earlier!
However, before we all get too excited we must remind our CEO’s that we are Humans (Homo sapiens). We are the only extant members of the subtribe Hominina. And here is the point – we have larger, more complex brains than other animals, and highly advanced andorganized societies.
Our tribal instincts, whether supporters of a netball team, (go on admit it …you thought I would mention another sport!) members of a club, society or company need to be in our tribal community. We rely on each other for ideas, support, camaraderie, mammoth hunting, and team building. Through face to face communication we enjoy much and learn such a lot through body language that we do not have to adopt our canine friends behaviours such as sniffing each other’s bottoms or urinating on lamp posts! We are human and we need a place to interact!
As a bloke I need two bases. Base A – A “home” to live and raise my sprogs. And Base B to get away from Base A. So, a Base B “office” must surely still be required if only to accommodate those with a sub-optimum Base A, operational needs and of course to collaborate, integrate and meet as a community.
Change, if any, will only be as quick as social distancing guidance and leases permit. So naturally there is time for both landlord and tenants to reflect. Expectations are reduced lease lengths and demand for flexible and smaller floorplates. This will command new financial models that accommodate both the security of tenure and the flexibility. Longer term that may point toward increased rents to hedge risk.
As our Chiefs wrestle with the future there is hope the commute will be less frequent and that our performance is based on output and not attendance. Whilst there has never been a clear consensus on any one scenario that led to the “Ghost Ship” Mary Celeste, I think we all know that COVID-19 has and shall continue to make us all think and behave differently.
Wishing all good health and success through this crisis.
Andrew L Mather BSc(Hons) MRICS
Managing Director @ CS2