After a year of navigating national lockdowns and pandemic procured restrictions, we all have a heightened appreciation and awareness of the value of community, friendship and social experiences. However, much of the data and coverage of the impact of lockdowns have focused on productivity, or on the big-picture items such as holidays and weddings.
While these things are very much missed and important to consider, the experiences that most of us long for are probably much more simple: the sound of the opening credits in the cinema, popping into a spin class or grabbing a bite to eat with a friend or a colleague.
There is much debate about how and when we will return to the office, with Goldman Sachs calling remote working an “aberration” in the same week that HSBC culled approximately 40% of its offices. We know that a large cohort of workers in the UK want to return to the office for at least part of the week, if not all of it. Research has revealed that working from home has created feelings of isolation, stress from an evaporating work-life barrier and a longing for face-to-face meetings with colleagues.
The likelihood is that when we do return to the office it will be different from the one that we left more than a year ago, with a scale of flexibility that might never have been considered before March 2020.
However, there has been so much on the manner of our return, that there hasn’t been as much discussion on what kind of office people want to return to, and what can be done to futureproof office environments so that their appeal outlives the alternative of working off a laptop on your dining table.
If we don’t re-evaluate the pull of the office, and more importantly, the benefit of its location and surrounding offerings, then we will miss a once-in-a-generation opportunity on how to attract, retain and cultivate a diverse range of talent.
Research conducted by British Land of more than 1,000 workers across the UK, found that 86% would stay longer with an employer that had the ideal office location and features.
Perhaps, the suggestion that 86% of employees want to go to the office for a change of scenery and the chance to go for a drink or meal with friends might not make the most compelling or concise headline, but thinking this way can be revealing for the role of offices and the importance of the employee experience.
When it comes to curating destinations and planning the return to the office and normality, there is much to be learned by reading between the lines here as the value of experience is at a premium like never before.
On the move
Looking ahead, the industry will need to focus even more on customer-led experiences to capitalise on the easing of lockdown restrictions. Understanding the value of experience is central to how we work at Cain, not just in the real estate investment team but through our private equity investments and work with brands such as Competitive Socialising, AllBright and Mortimer House.
We recently moved our London HQ to Islington Square, our mixed-use development off Islington’s Upper Street, and it’s exciting to know that when we return to the office, I’ll be working among some of London’s best bars, food spots and retailers, with fitness and other leisure amenities on our doorstep. It may not be a big holiday to somewhere warm and sunny, but knowing that a spontaneous lunch or drink with a colleague is in reach is an important milestone.