Office experts in the South West discuss the road to recovery for workspaces


How well prepared are offices for the return to the workplace and what will they look like? - the question all office workers are asking as increasing numbers of companies open their doors to employees following months of homeworking.

In its latest webinar the British Council for Offices (BCO) brought together a panel of experts from the South West to discuss how the region is best placed to deal with the changes to working environments. Panelists also touched upon how the ‘new normal’ will affect businesses trying to entice new and current employees to come back post Covid-19.

The webinar was chaired by BCO’s South West Committee Chairman and Partner at commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, Andy Heath, who was joined by Patrick Scanlon, Head of UK Offices Insight at Cushman & Wakefield; Clare Bailey, Director at Savills in London; and Rory Carson, Vice President at Green Park, the sustainable business park located in Reading.

Cushman & Wakefield’s Patrick Scanlon started by talking attendees through an economic overview of the region.

Patrick commented:

“It goes without saying that we are in unprecedented times in all parts of the economy. Where there have been recessions and bounce backs before it has been because of outside factors, however, this time we are facing a recession because we chose to ‘pause’ the economy.”

Commenting on the recovery data, Patrick continued:

“Mobility data shows an increase in commercial vehicle and car use, but more concerning for us is that the use of public transport has barely changed. Until people feel safe enough to travel, they won’t, and that means that offices in locations that rely heavily on public transport might struggle to get people back to their desks.”

Clare Bailey, Director at Savills London, commented on statistical attributes of the region and pointed out that recent research reveals Bristol to be one of the happiest cities in the UK, Reading the best place to work and that Cardiff has more green space per person than any other city.

Clare presented attendees with research which detailed the ongoing change in what employees want from their employers pre and post Covid-19, she said:

“If cities and towns are to be attractive to new businesses then they need to invest in the right attributes to appeal to new audiences.

”These can include but are not limited to open spaces, parks nearby, good transport links and green credentials.

“Some great work has already been undertaken in the region at sites including HALO at Finzels Reach in Bristol, John’s Street in Cardiff and Longwater in Reading which are all sought-after office environments thanks to their respective locations and green credentials. It’s these kind of spaces which will make workers want to come back after Covid-19.”

Rory Carson, Vice President at Green Park went on to explain that lockdown has presented the business park with many challenges as they cater for 60 companies, explaining:

“After a couple of weeks of working from home all businesses had reported that staff had been just as if not more motivated and effective. With this in mind we now have a position where we can evaluate what the office brings to the business and its employees.”

“Virtual platforms have worked but social interaction between colleagues is missed and the separation between the office and home life can be grating for some employees. It must be noted that working from home does present us with different challenges as there are generational differences and circumstantial differences. So, some employees will be craving the office, while others have found home working a lot easier as it fits around family life.”

“So why come back to the office? One of the bits of feedback we had from one of the resident businesses was that our occupiers have missed the activities that happen at work. For example, we installed wildlife webcams to keep the workers updated on our baby swans that were due to hatch as well as move 60% of our community events online.”

Commenting on the webinar, Andy Heath said:

“The insights that offered in this webinar provide essential considerations for businesses that are starting to bring back employees into the office and how well placed as a region we are going forward.”

“I’d like to thank everyone who joined us on our webinar and our speakers Patrick, Claire and Rory for raising important points and explaining how different spaces in the region are preparing for the return to the workforce.”