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Post-pandemic landlords face new space-time sales model

[Image: Laura Davidson/Unsplash]

The pandemic, or at least the post-pandemic period, is an opportunity to change the unit of measurement for offices from “sq ft” to “sq ft hours” according to a briefing note from the British Council for Offices.

Called “The Future of Office in the Post-Pandemic Work Environment”, the briefing note looks in detail at the changing behaviours of office users that have occurred in the UK since March 2020 and at the trends that have been accelerated, and it attempts to assess the permanence of those changes.

The focus is inevitably on home working and the way that previously office-based staff have adapted to working remotely and to the technology and working practices that have enabled what was originally a forced change.

“The pandemic has created profound changes to how individuals interact and work. It has highlighted the people dimension of work and workplaces,” the report states.

It points out that the rapid transition to a distributed workforce has put many security practices at risk and observes that if remote working is introduced as a choice, it will have to result in a less informal management style “as all interactions will potentially be on record.”

“Pre-existing gaps in IT visibility, accountability and resilience and siloed IT operations and security teams exacerbate the already challenging situation,” it states.

The potential reduction of the office footprint and changed operating mode will have many implications for existing staff, the briefing note states.

The BCO looks at different scenarios, one a hybrid mix of home and central office working, while another postulates predominantly home working. The report’s authors extrapolate that a 10,000 sq m pre-pandemic office requirement could be reduced by between 2,000 sq m and 4,000 sq m.

Space-time form favours card carrying co-workers

By shifting to measuring in terms of sq ft hours, it will be possible to sell more sq ft hours than sq ft, BCO said. “The space-time form will particularly favour co-working as customers can have smart cards loaded with millions of sq ft hours which can be deducted automatically as a holder passes through an electronic gateway into the office,” the report states.

The “ownership pyramid” in a typical commercial property of the future will change too. It will still comprise the investor/developer, but an operator would be added to the equation to take the lease risk and sell space and facilities to users on a time/space basis.”The move towards this type of model is unlikely to be a pandemic fad and is likely to be here to stay,” the BCO adds.

Alastair Moss, co-head of real estate at law firm Memery Crystal, which sponsored the BCO’s report, said his firm is already starting to see the above changes happen. “SME’s, particularly, in the city of London are starting to facilitate this change,” he said.