Office space post Covid.

We’ve all seen those wonderful offices on legal TV shows like “Suits” etc and to be fair it is the shop window especially for the huge firms those places have but in London things seem to be changing. Some big London firms hope to secure annual cash savings in the hundred of thousands by reducing space and varying lease terms around the country. Many all over the world are also reducing their property footprint in some cases even subletting some areas. Initially this was probably a result of more and more buildings going up with firms reducing staff costs and other measure to increase profitability. The flip side is that all the space they bought up now lies empty as all city firms from legal to insurance and other desk based businesses have branched out. One of the easiest ways to save costs is to employ staff from outside of London especially in the cheaper areas of the country. The northern powerhouse wasn’t difficult to create if the hook was baited with huge cash savings. Then came covid.

After decades of hearing people saying “we will all be working from home one day thanks to technology” one of the unlikely trials of the covid virus segregation experiment has been the live rollout of remote working, namely at home.  I recently spotted this snippet online in the Law Gazette.

“Some firms have given up entire offices in favour of full-time remote working. Slater and Gordon moved out of its London office in September when its two-year lease ended, while Dentons has permanently closed regional offices in Aberdeen and Watford. A number of high-profile office moves are still going ahead, however. Baker McKenzie is due to move to 280 Bishopsgate in 2023 as part of a ‘long-term growth plan’. The firm was originally due to occupy 150,000 square feet but has reduced this by 10%. Magic circle firm Linklaters has signed a lease agreement for 20 Ropemaker in the City of London, effective from 2026. The 14-floor office will occupy over 300,000 square feet. According to the firm’s accounts, lease payments will amount to between £308m and £445m over a 20-year period.”

Word is that much will depend on when firms’ current leases expire and their ability to sublet. Firms may be reluctant to make long-term decisions until the pandemic is over and there is greater clarity as to future work patterns and their impact on office space requirements. Edward Sparrow, chairman of the City of London Law Society, predicted that working from home would soon become ‘mainstream’ and said coronavirus has destroyed the preconception that working from home is an easy option, inefficient or not acceptable to clients. There is no doubt this is true to a pointing providing your employee is meeting target who cares if they sit in their underpants wearing a shirt and tie for the zoom meeting? Cruzlaw still feel there is still the reality of meeting people face to face and engaging with them especially in the initial stages. It is where meetings and relationships are bonded. A client isn’t just for covid they’re forever if you want their work. I’m all for homework if required but there is often something satisfying about closing the office door like closing the briefcase and winding down. Working from home can and should be done when applicable and appropriate but like many other walks of life one shoe does not fit all.