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The end of the office? Post-lockdown meeting trend emerges

Strong evidence for the trend towards ‘the end of the office’ has emerged in the last few weeks, with businesses moving towards looking to book weekly meetings space long term as they give up their offices.

The evidence that many businesses are planning to give up having offices has come from etc.venues, which offers more than 270 meeting rooms mainly in London but also in Manchester, Birmingham and New York.

Since 1 July, when a major surge of incoming enquiries for meeting rooms began, more than 25 per cent have been from companies planning to give up having a permanent office, especially in London. Typically, they want to book one or two meeting rooms for two days a week for six months for internal meetings and for appointments with clients and suppliers. For the rest of the week all staff will work from home.

The venue provider says that this is a clear sign that remote working during lockdown has led employers to review the role and cost of the office space and to look seriously at alternatives.

Nick Hoare, chief operating officer of etc.venues, said: “We appear to be seeing the start of an office culture paradigm shift. Lockdown has forced employers to try out and establish remote working practice on a widespread scale and to be more flexible about how they work. Many businesses are now looking to give up their current offices and the rigid leasing costs involved, and instead pick from our wide range of contemporary and creative meeting spaces to use them for internal and client meetings, typically for two days a week.

“They recognise the continuing need to bring their teams together frequently because working from home can be isolating and can eliminate the personal connections that are built in an office. As the Prime Minister said in this coronavirus briefing on 17 July – ‘there is no substitute for face-to face meetings and interactions.”

Etc.venues is not the only meeting space provider anticipating a change in working habits. The Venues Collection has just announced that three of its eight venues will be available to rent as flexible office space on an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis. This move is in response to the changing shift in working habits and the predicted need for remote workers to meet regularly.

Joanne Barratt, managing director, The Venues Collection said: “According to recent research* almost half (45 per cent) of employees expect to work more flexibly after lockdown restrictions on UK businesses are lifted, and many businesses are starting to consider that this could herald a permanent shift in working habits. This trend, coupled with the predicted recession will see many businesses ditch their permanent office space, but still need some occasional space for their remote teams to meet. We are human and we need to meet our colleagues face-to-face – not just once a year at the big company conference, but on a more regular basis. So as more people work remotely, why should businesses pay for an office that is hardly used? Instead, we are offering businesses easily accessible, flexible and cost effective spaces.

“We are happy to accommodate all sizes of business – from a sole trader looking for peaceful space away from home, to a business growing or shrinking its workforce and needing flexible office space to match demand. We can hire space for an hour, or for a month or more. The world is changing and we are keen and ready with a solution to adapt our spaces.”

The properties that are offering office space are Kents Hill Park in Milton Keynes, Sedgebrook Hall in Northampton and Eastwood Hall in Nottingham.