The long-awaited announcement from the government on Monday 22nd finally gave the country some much-needed clarity and hope for the future.
With significantly more understanding around what the next few months could hold, businesses everywhere are now wondering what this means for their office plans, as they look to implement new workplace strategies for the long-term.
What did the announcement say about returning to the office?
The roadmap gave no specific indication as to when workers should return to offices—however, the PM did confirm that in addition to the “unlocking” steps, the government would be conducting four reviews on or before 21st June. The result of these reviews may impact the guidance to work from home earlier.
Below, we’ve mapped out what the latest government announcement means for your back-to-office timeline—and the key steps to consider to ensure that your employees have access to the workspace they need, whatever your future strategy is.
Working back from June 21st 2020
TL;DR—here’s a summary of your key dates between now and June 21st:
- By end of March: find out how your team want to work
- By early April: work out whether your existing workplace setup still meets team’s needs
- By mid-April: actively start your workspace search (or if you’re sticking with existing space, plan any changes you’re going to make)
- By mid-May: make sure you’ve signed your contract
- By mid-June: ensure any new processes/policies are ready
- June 21st: ready for business
Whether it be because they put a previous office search on hold, gave up their office during lockdown, or are looking for new workplace solutions, we know that many businesses will be looking for new workspace over the next few months.
When moving, the planning/searching phase takes the most time—so the earlier you get started, the better. Below, we’ve sketched out timings for companies looking for flexible office space that they can use by the end of June.
We’ve focused on flexible office space for the following reasons:
- The ability to move fast—you can view a flex space, sign a contract and move in all within a few days if you need to, vs the 3-6 months it takes to lease a space. There are also minimal upfront and ongoing maintenance costs—helping cash flow in a time of economic uncertainty.
- In this “new world of work”, flexibility is more important than ever. Businesses don’t want to invest heavily in a new way of working that they haven’t yet tested. The nature of flex space means you can adapt your workplace strategy in real-time, and take more space, less space, or different space as and when you need it.
- It takes much longer to secure managed and leased space—so even if you’re looking to invest in more long-term workspace for your team, you may prefer to secure an interim flex space so that employees have a physical base in the meantime.
- There are also many highly-competitive deals currently on offer during this time, from some of the UK’s most popular flexible workspaces—from rent-free periods to shorter minimum terms.
- Plus, many flex operators have made it possible for companies to sign an office contract now, and start paying later, once restrictions are lifted…meaning you can make the most of the current offers, without feeling like you’re wasting money on empty desks during lockdown.
Caveats on the below timings:
- Guidance on working from home may well change earlier than 21st June, and with other restrictions being lifted over the next few months, you may find that your company needs workspace solutions (either temporary or permanent) before that date. As such, we’d recommend getting ahead of the game and thinking of these dates as “by the very latest”—as well as considering interim solutions for those team members who need to get out of the house earlier than June.
- These timings should work for companies of most sizes. But it’s worth saying that the bigger your company, the more stakeholders you need to bear in mind, and the longer you should factor in to make the process as smooth as possible….
- …that said, we’ve helped businesses find offices in less than 48 hours—so whatever you need, we can make it happen.
If you have any questions about your own individual situation, feel free to get in touch with our team of experts.
Your back-to-office timeline:
A comprehensive guide on how to approach your back-to-office strategy, following the government’s latest announcement:
By end of March
- Find out how your team want to work
Every employee will have different needs and preferences around how they want to work in the future, so when it comes to figuring out the best workplace strategy for your company, we strongly believe that the most valuable thing you can do is speak to your people.
By the end of March, we recommend you to have run a team survey, to find out how and where employees would most like to work going forward. You may have already done a survey like this during the pandemic—but if that was more than a month ago, we’d advise doing another one. This has been a turbulent time, and the circumstances in which people are working change so often that how they felt a few months ago may well be different from how they feel now.
To help you find the insights you need quickly and easily, we’ve created a free-to-use Workplace Strategy Tool—which will help you survey your employees and analyse the data with ease.
Once you have those insights, you can balance the preferences of your team with how you as an organisation would prefer to work or build your culture going forward.
Other lockdown context: By 29th March, the “stay at home” order may have changed to “stay local”.
With less stringent rules on staying at home, and increased rates of vaccination, some employees who felt unable to leave their homes for work, but have struggled to work from home 5 days a week, may want to explore options near their home.
For this, you may like to make use of the Hubble Pass—which enables your employees to access hundreds of high-quality, on-demand workspaces near where they live. This is also a popular option for colleagues to meet each other, if they live in the same area (taking the social distancing guidelines into account, of course).
By early April
- Review your existing workplace strategy
Once you’ve gathered data from your team, the next step is to work out whether your existing workplace setup meets their needs. Fortunately, the office market has responded pretty quickly to the new world of work, meaning that there are many new ways to take office space.
Our philosophy is very much that every organisation will have their unique configuration of working from the HQ, home or on-demand spaces. This may also change over time. So feel free to be creative and exploratory here. The nature of flexible contracts means that you can always change your mind or do some trials until you see what works best.
For instance, you could:
- Opt for a smaller HQ (or HQs) with access to a network for everyone
- Take a membership with an office provider that allows multi-location access
- Adapt your existing office for new uses (e.g. increasing the number of meeting rooms or collaborative spaces)
- Take an office part-time, sharing the week with another business
- Give employees access to on-demand space, that they can book as and when they need it (e.g. coworking spaces, meeting rooms, inspirational spaces etc)
- Give employees a workspace allowance (e.g. hot desk membership to a space of their choice)
- A combination of a number of the above (e.g. take a smaller HQ + give employees on-demand workspace access)
Of course, if the majority of your team wants or needs to be in the office every day, you can still take a full-time office for your whole team.
And if you have chosen to stay in your existing workspace, or are tied into a lease for the foreseeable future, you may consider adapting the office space you already have.
Decide on what you need, ready for the next step.
If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry: we can help you figure out the most appropriate and cost-effective approach for your team.
If you’re looking for new space
We’d recommend actively starting your search by mid-April at the latest. With increased demand from people resuming (or starting) their search pushing up prices, office searches will become more urgent and there will be less room for negotiation. The earlier you are, the more time, choice, and good value you’ll have at your fingertips.
At Hubble, we can help with this whole search process—from sending over recommendations and helping you build your shortlist, to organising viewings and assisting with negotiations (we’ve helped customers get as much as a 60% discount on the list price during lockdown.)
If you’re sticking with existing space
This is the time to plan the changes you’re going to make, such as:
- reorganising or repurposing your office to make it more collaborative,
- increasing the amount of meeting room space you have access to, either inside or outside your building, or
- sourcing on-demand workspace close to employees’ homes so that team members don’t have to commute every single day.
Other lockdown context: By 12th April, non-essential shops, gyms, hairdressers, and a wide variety of other businesses (including outdoor restaurants and pubs) may have been allowed to reopen.
If this happens, we anticipate a real shift in sentiment as people feel the return to normal, and a general increase in the busyness of towns and cities.
For those securing new space, this is the time to get your contract signed—giving you at least a month to sort all of the moving admin.
You can use our free office move checklist to make sure you’ve got all the nitty gritty details covered.
Other lockdown context: By 17th May, further opening may be underway.
At this point, six people or two households will hopefully be able to meet indoors. We know that many people are really missing being able to work, brainstorm, collaborate, and hang out with their colleagues. The Hubble Pass is a great way to enable this if you don’t have an office, or you want to make it easier for employees to do so in a place that suits them.
Ensure that any new processes are ready, updated working policies have been signed off, and all new updates have been clearly communicated with all team members.
You’re now ready for business.
Give each of your employees £100 free coworking via the Hubble Pass
The Hubble Pass gives you access to hundreds of the very best coworking spaces in London, surrounding areas and other selected cities, from Lisbon to LA. With it, you and your employees can access convenient workspace, on demand—unlocking the freedom, variety and ease of flexible working.
The Hubble Pass is perfect for your company if:
- you have employees who cannot work from home at the moment
- you want to give employees access to workspace closer to home, so they don’t have to endure long commutes
- your team is keen to meet up together outside of the office, local to where they live or experience a different location every week
- you have given up your office during lockdown but want to give team members access to workspace when restrictions lift
- you want to give your employees the option to have a change of scenery, or work in different environments for different activities
- you’re keen to trial a pay-as-you-go approach to office space, rather than committing to a full-time office just yet
- you want to empower employees to work anywhere, anytime