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Pre-Pandemic Workspace Priorities Return, But Public And Private Sectors Diverge


A new dividing line appears to be opening up in UK workspace, and it is between public and private sector occupiers.

Data from Knight Frank/Cresa and a regular statistics drop from the UK government show a gap in the approach to office-centric working models and those employers who remain more tolerant of working from home.

Yet both public and private sector data suggests that pre-pandemic work patterns are — very slowly — reasserting themselves.

The Knight Frank/Cresa research looked at 350 international firms and revealed 31% of occupiers implemented "office first" or "office only" policies. Just 12% planned to be "remote first" or "work from anywhere."

However, figures released last week by the UK government show some government departments still recording low workplace headcounts.

Whilst many government departments have around two-thirds of workplace staff capacity occupied, others, including the Department for Business, Enterprise and Skills, are much lower, hovering between 48% and 66%. Other departments with low monthly occupancy are the Foreign Office (50%-52%), HM Revenue and Customs (41%-50%) and the Home Office (54%-56%).

In the private sector, the return to the office has prompted some larger corporates to renew their search for office floorspace. As many as 55% of international firms expect to increase the amount of office space within their global portfolios in the next three years, and 47% plan to relocate their corporate headquarters. 

This doesn't mean corporates have abandoned hybrid work, but it does show alternative approaches are alive and well. The data showed that 56% of global corporates plan to move toward hybrid work, offering employees a mix of home and office working.

“The vast majority [of international corporates] are opting for a hybrid or ‘office first’ approach, bringing them much closer to how many corporates were viewing their future needs before the pandemic, with just 12% of firms now pursuing a ‘remote first’ or ‘fully flexible’ model,” said Lee Elliott, global head of occupier research at Knight Frank. “Firms are looking to work their offices harder, but still offer some flexibility to staff.”