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17.11.2022 Back to Blog articles

Remote Working: Is This The End Of City Centre Offices?

Back in the day, establishing a city centre office was a goal for many businesses. This was for a range of reasons; from prestige and easy transport links to networking opportunities and great local amenities. Whether it was popping out for that midmorning coffee pick me up, a delicious work lunch with friends, hitting the gym for an after-work sweat session or even the simple ability to get some errands done in your lunch hour, there is no denying that an office in the city had its benefits. However, despite its benefits, if you have walked down your local city high street recently you will have seen a whole host of closed business shop fronts and empty offices. So what has happened to our city centres and how can this impact your business?

Has Covid Killed Our City Centres?

Even before Covid, cities were struggling with decentralisation and urban decline, with a distinct drop in the number of shops and businesses in our city centres. This movement was heavily influenced by the rise of more service-based industries over manufacturing and a shift to online shopping; with many retailers struggling to justify the significant expense that comes with owning and running a shop front or large office. As with many things in life, everything hangs in the balance in a city and a change in one area often impacts another. For example, a decline of offices in the city centre can trigger a domino effect that filters down to affect other businesses such as coffee shops and restaurants. Covid had a significant impact on our daily lives both in and outside of work and while it demonstrated the many positives that come with remote working it also highlighted its limitations. But was covid the final nail in the coffin for our cities?

Is This The End Of City-Based Offices?

Yes, how we work and where we work may have changed but this does not mean that the concept of a traditional office structure is obsolete, nor should we give up on working in our cities. Whether you are an urban city slicker or dream of an idyllic rural life it is possible to find an office that suits you, your business and your employees. Ultimately it all comes down to finding a balance. Whether you are trying to assess if it is worthwhile to keep your city offices or whether you need to establish one, here are a few questions you need to ask yourself as a business owner:

  • How many employees do you have and where do they stay?
  • What is your budget?
  • Would you be willing to share office space? 
  • How many employees want to work completely remotely?
  • How many employees are interested in hybrid working?
  • How many employees rely on public transport
  • What work environment best suits your employees
  • Are there any limitations to consider for employees who want to work remotely? For example, access to technology or GDPR issues.
  • What facilities do your employees need? For example meeting rooms, breakout spaces, video and audio editing.
  • Do you intend to offer any additional perks, for example, discounted gym membership, partnership/discount with local restaurants and coffee shops or an incentive to all employees who utilise elements such as public transport to get to the office to help reduce the company's overall carbon footprint?

There will always be pros and cons when choosing how and where we work and while many were chomping at the bit to get back into the office there are just as many who are reluctant to return to a traditional office and 9 to 5. This puts increasing pressure on businesses to embrace flexible working while utilising office sharing and coworking to reduce unnecessary overheads.

It’s All About The Wiggle Room and Meeting People Halfway

Some of the benefits which come with an office in a city may not suit everyone but embracing flexible working might help to bring life back into our cities!

It is estimated that it will take the creation of almost 10 million new jobs to help UK cities recover post-pandemic. Many councils have been working hard to drive life back into our city centres.

Whether it has been through grants and reductions in business rates, improving transport links and infrastructure or supporting more affordable housing to entice young professionals, there has been a distinct effort from the government, councils and public to revitalise and rejuvenate town centres, to bring them back to their former glory (just with a slight twist). What many cities are discovering is that although there is not the same demand for retailers there is still a demand from people looking to live and work in a bustling metropolitan city. In fact, some city centres in the UK are flourishing post-pandemic, with developers and companies in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool all seeing their population rise since 2019. This year (2022) Manchester was announced as the fastest-growing city in England with an increase in the total population of 4.9% since 2021 while Liverpool has increased by almost 6% over the past 2 years.

Ultimately, we know there has been a shift in attitudes since Covid. Many businesses are questioning whether they need a dedicated office in the city and whether that city really needs to be London; especially when other cities such as Manchester and Liverpool have just as much to offer without the ‘large price bump’ London is renowned for.

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