Workplace, construction and commercial real estate experts say Britain’s obsession with city centre offices is changing. We ask some of the leading industry thinkers to explain why the sands are shifting.

There’s one word on the lips of industry experts for 2021: decentralisation. Over the years many workplace fashions have come and gone, whether that is bold colour schemes, open plan design or sleep pods in Google-style offices.

Now, however, there is a new trend which hits right at the heart of workspace culture: moving or spreading out of the city centre to offices on the edge of town or to rural areas where there is more space for social distancing and a shorter, less crowded, commute.

There has always been a powerful financial argument for making this kind of move – after all, in London, commercial space gets cheaper the further out you go. But logistics and a reluctance from Londoners to leave the capital has made it difficult.

However, having been through months of a pandemic and with a rising awareness of the health risks of travelling on public transport, there are strong signs that Britain’s workforce is changing its mind.

This is giving businesses an opportunity to review where their office space should be based.

Phil Oram of workplace experts Crown Workspace, said: “We are seeing a lot of businesses, especially those whose leases are coming to an end, actively looking to move out of city centres.

“Companies in London in particular have found it difficult to tempt people back into the office, especially to high rise buildings in which the only way to reach the top is in a lift in which social distancing is problematic.


“Having big city centre offices was fantastic when people were happy to jump on the tube and loved the buzz of the capital, but what happens now?

“A lot of companies are telling us they are seriously considering out-of-town office space and thinking about decentralisation.

“Some are looking at the suburbs, others at smaller towns or locations where staff can drive to work and feel safe and where buildings have fewer storeys.

“Areas such as Hertfordshire, Essex and Surrey are popular – but the trend is not restricted to the home counties. The outskirts of cathedral or coastal cities are attractive too for businesses who want to offer employees a high-quality lifestyle with transport links.”

This is not just a London trend. Businesses in the UK’s other major cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow, are no longer seeing the need for city centre skyscrapers when so many of their employees are now working from home. Why pay all that money for a building which is never full?

Phil added: “Desk space can cost up to £12,000 a year in central London but one report suggests peak utilisation is rarely above 75% – and that was before COVID-19.

“We’ve always talked about London being the hub of everything that goes on in the UK. Now we are starting to see that change. It’s not good for the country to have such a London-centric economy and we need economic centres across the country.

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