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A built environment evolution: corporate HQ as the nucleus

October 12, 2020 / United Kingdom

How we use corporate real estate has been slowly evolving for years. 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working was on the rise. The number of UK employees who work remotely has increased by nearly a quarter of a million over the past decade, for instance.

And of course, right now remote working is huge. 46.6% of UK workers worked from home at least once in April 2020, compared to less than 30% throughout 2019

These changes look like they’re here to stay. 60% of UK employees want to keep working remotely after the pandemic, and 84% believe employers should offer the option of remote working.

This raises serious questions for commercial real estate and facilities managers (like our own Vice President of Workplace and Real Estate, Michael Huaco, has discussed). Questions like:

  • Does the corporate HQ still have its place? 
  • How should we be rethinking real estate? 
  • How can we create flexible office space? 
  • How can we address new facilities maintenance challenges? 

Rethinking real estate: is this the fall of corporate HQ?

It’s highly unlikely corporate HQ will become completely redundant. 

Remote working has been far from a unanimous big hit, for starters. 

  • 47% of managers feel their team are at increased risk of burnout working remotely. And 87% of employees feel increased pressure to be productive remotely. 

Plus there’s an implication for collaboration. If teams can’t easily collaborate, that has a knock-on impact for innovation, creativity, development and ultimately on profitability.  

Corporate HQ might not be a place of necessity any longer, but it’s still a place of convenience. Estates and facilities managers are unlikely to find themselves out of a job anytime soon. 

The return back to office might be slow but it will happen – but when it does, how we use spaces may need a serious rethink.

How facilities managers can create flexible office spaces

The International Well Building Institute recently released new standards to support the fight against COVID-19, covering:

  1. Promoting clean contact
  2. Improving air quality
  3. Maintaining water quality
  4. Managing risk and creating organisational resilience
  5. Supporting movement and comfort
  6. Strengthening immune systems
  7. Fostering mental resilience
  8. Championing community resilience and recovery

For estates and facilities managers, those guidelines surface many of the questions we should be asking to evolve office space to meet employees’ new needs. 

Take corporate kitchens, for example.

  • Will businesses need smaller catering spaces, if demand declines?
  • Will businesses need larger dining spaces, to support social distancing?
  • Will layouts need to change, to support safe access?
  • Will equipment need installing, to support clean contact and low touch? 
  • Will ventilation need enhancing, to improve air quality?

Right now, corporate HQ remains the nucleus of the business. But if our need for corporate real estate hasn’t changed, what we need from those spaces has. Estates, property and facilities managers must meet those challenges head-on. 

This blog is part of The team that Eats together initiative, a content series exploring what normal looks like now, and how to enhance the working world to meet evolved employee expectations…

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The views and opinions expressed are based on the research conducted and they do not intend to present an official policy of Uber or any of its subsidiaries. Examples of advice mentioned in this article are based on open source information and assumptions made within the article are not reflective of Uber’s position.