Demand for smaller offices could spark refit boom, survey suggests

Demand for new, smaller offices to accommodate a mix of home and office working in Europe could spark a flurry of imaginative refit work, a survey suggests.

Some 52% of global companies anticipate a return to the office for at least three days a week by the end of June this year, according to a survey conducted by Unispace, a company that designs and builds offices.

It surveyed around 150 decision-makers in a variety of industries around the world in May.

Across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, a regional grouping often referred to as EMEA, 45% of companies surveyed are planning projects, which Unispace said were either new spaces or completely re-imagined ones. That compares to 20% of respondents planning new projects in the Americas.

And nearly half of new workplace projects planned in Europe (48%) are smaller sites, under 20,000 sq ft in area.

Just 16% of respondents globally expected to proceed with major projects of 50,000 sq ft or more. More companies anticipate hybrid working, with employees carrying out what Unispace called "focus work" from home and going to the office for collaboration, socialisation and strategic work.

Tom Helliwell, Unispace’s strategy director for EMEA, said in a press release that companies should plan carefully.

"The strategy question can be distilled down to three key considerations: what do employees really want, how much space is needed and how is it going to be used?" Helliwell said.

"It’s key to ensure that data is informing our global strategy for returning to the office – a strategy based on employees’ needs and behaviours, rather than guesswork and speculation. If companies get this wrong, they run the risk of shrinking their space too far, too fast.

"This is where space utilisation data and predictive analytics can unlock strategic insights about how the post-covid workplace will function – from basic occupancy levels to real-time analysis of in-office footfall and employee behaviours."

While 52% of global companies across the board anticipate at least a partial return to the office by the end of June, that figure masks big regional variations. It is much higher in the Asia-Pacific region, at 71%, compared to the Americas, where it is 43%.

Image: Commuters in pre-pandemic London, 2019 (Karl Bewick/Unsplash)

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