Covid: City firms look to cut office space amid pandemic

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Reuters

Many top City firms are thinking about how big their offices should be as staff continue to work mainly from home during the pandemic, a study indicates.

According to a survey by the CBI and PwC, 74% of financial services firms are reviewing their office space needs.

Of those, most are looking to either use space differently, get rid of it, or both.

Other recent surveys suggest that more home working will become a permanent fixture for a majority of businesses.

The government says people in England should work from home if they can.

Last week, a survey of just under 1,000 firms by the Institute of Directors (IoD) showed that 74% plan on maintaining the increase in home working, while more than half plan on reducing their long-term use of workplaces.

It followed a BBC survey in August which suggested that 50 of the biggest UK employers had no plans to return all staff to the office full-time in the near future.

Of the 133 firms polled in the CBI and PwC survey, 88% said there had been a shift to remote working, with half saying most of their staff could work from home.

More than two-thirds of the firms were investing in their IT infrastructure, but overall, jobs were tipped to be cut back.

‘Ghost towns’

A report by Cardiff and Southampton universities in August suggested that most people are as productive when working from home, if not more so.

Given that the people working from home are among the most productive, “preventing them from choosing how they work in the future does not make economic sense,” said Prof Alan Felstead, of Cardiff University.

However, the CBI warned in August of negative economic consequences from increased working from home, saying city centres could become “ghost towns” if office workers were not encouraged to go back.

But the IoD survey suggested that home working driven by the pandemic was “here to stay”, with a significant minority of bosses saying working from home was more effective.

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