This was the question addressed this morning by Charlie Thompson of Farebrother and David Kosky at Work.Life. If you ask Goldman Sachs whether their office has a future, they will say absolutely. You might, however, get a different answer if you ask Lloyds, where 77% of their employees want to work from home going forwards.

Whether employees want to return to the office largely depends on the quality of their home working space; the distractions that they might have at home; the benefits they feel they get from being in the office, including their training requirements; and the length of their commute. Employers considering the potential for reducing their overheads may be keen to embrace the change in working patterns if they perceive this as necessary to retain quality staff. This will be conditional on ensuring that employees are appropriately supervised, teams are still able to collaborate effectively and employees are able to access an office should they wish.

It may be ten years until we see the full effect of the biggest accidental social experiment of the century. Offices are often let on ten year leases and so organisations may not need to or be able to make a decision on their office space requirements for a number of years to come.  

We can learn some lessons from those organisations with lease expiry dates in the next 12 months. Over 50% of those listening to the Midtown Business Club webinar this morning, thought that if they were making such a decision, they would reduce their organisation's office space, but improve the quality of that space. Organisations recognise that not everyone will be in the office full time and some employees will need to be enticed into the office with good quality space. Breakout rooms, for example, will be essential, as Zoom calls continue, to reduce noise in communal areas. Social space will also be important to ensure team bonds can be built and developed. In contrast, it may be that large board rooms no longer have the importance they once did.

Organisations that downsize are likely to look for flex space to cover those days where office space is in high demand. This is where co-working providers look set to benefit. Managed and fitted office space providers are also likely to profit from the shift in working patterns. As organisations downsize, they may want to take space on a short-term basis to determine if the space reduction is temporary. They may also see a benefit from a managed office space provider as this enables organisations to re-allocate resources away from management of their own office space and instead rely on the provider's services.

As to the question in hand, offices do have a future, but their role may well evolve significantly over the next ten years.