Formulating a stay vs go decision

You couldn't have missed the headlines on changing attitudes to agile working over the past year. The trend has been apparent for the past 10 or 20 years, however it took a pandemic and a globally enforced work from home policy to prove it really does work.

Goldman Sachs and Barclays are planning on their workforce returning to the office whilst many other companies, such as Twitter, are boldly announcing "you can work from home forever". What side of the fence are you on?

In the not for profit sector the less money spent on overheads, such as rent, the more money that can be spent where it is needed. During a recent seminar stay vs go seminar for this sector participants were asked to provide insight into the changes being discussed within their organisations.

Post pandemic workplace trends

When asked what the key drivers of change were in the workplace 59% said the office was not fit for purpose, 61% said to reduce costs and 61% said they required less space.

What is more telling is that 98% of respondents were in favour of the hybrid model and only 2% considered remote or office only models going forward.

  • 55% foresaw a pattern of 2 days in the office with 3 days at home
  • 25% thought their charity would opt for 3 days in the office and 2 days at home

Overall, 67% said they were looking to reduce space which is broadly in line with trends we are seeing.

An opportunity in the current office market cycle?

London Office rents are under pressure as many businesses seek to sublet space, use lease events to renegotiate better terms, or exit to a more suitable space. Take up activity is c.60% lower than in 2019. Nationally, total sq. ft availability has increased by upwards of 25 million since the end of 2019, such a sharp uptick hasn’t happened since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. (Source: Cluttons analysis of Costar data)

If you have a lease event on the horizon then you are likely to have an opportunity to renegotiate a better deal and increased savings per sq. ft. Perhaps this is an opportunity to right size, reset and build back better after a difficult year.

Organisational vs property strategy

Some would argue there is no such a thing as a separate property strategy. That there is only a business strategy and that property is a facet of an organisation that needs to fit the edifice of the organisation.

Naturally, everything starts with a vision and filters down to your purpose, scope, direction, and resource requirements into a set of operational plans. Whether you’re looking at a head office move, or you are reshaping your portfolio - setting out a clear vision provides the building blocks for effective change.

The stay or go decision

When looking at whether to stay vs go you will need to assemble a team of consultants (property, legal, fit out for example) to help guide from setting up phase through the life cycle of your tenancy or occupation of the building. Your consultants will help frame all the organisational and property considerations and create metrics around them with your working property group.

The first stage of your strategy is to pull together data representing your current state. Whether you own a freehold or you're in a leased property you'll need to assess your people metrics (headcount growth / reduction et al) against your property holdings to understand compatibility and have as benchmarks to analyse effectiveness.

Gathering data in the appropriate way will give you the foundation to move to the next stage which is to conduct a strategic review. You might consider staff satisfaction surveys, the contractual terms of your current lease, calculate space costs in your current / desired location versus other, reasonable, comparable locations. If you have a large-scale portfolio there is property software tools which can help you visualise your property information against costs and other metrics which helps you and other stakeholders visualise the data which in turn makes decision making easier.

This all feeds into a working up a set of stay and go options. In the options appraisals it's not just the numbers that do the talking its softer issues that need to be weighed up in parallel. Finally, once you have narrowed to a preferred option which the exec and trustees agree you can then look to implement.

Summary

There is no one size fits all strategy and every approach taken will be highly personal to you. For example, a 10 - 20 person stay vs go will be a different ball game to that of a 200 person decision which will naturally be more complex.

It is worth mentioning there are other less tangible ways to realise improvements whether you're working from home or in the office. Wellness, connectivity, the environment, and flexibility have sky rocked up the agenda each seeming to be just as important as one another and if you do move this gives a real opportunity to do think about how you can integrate these elements differently.