2020 continues to challenge us. While we’re collectively navigating a ‘new normal’, we’re presented with another bend in the road that once again alters what ‘normal’ looks like.

Throughout all this change there is one thing that we as a nation have embraced; we’ve hit the reset button and discovered a new work-life balance. Through sheer necessity, we need so much more flexibility now than we did eight months ago and this is especially true for the working environment.

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Flexible workspaces have never been so important

The past two decades have seen a rise in the trend of flexible workspaces. Whether driven by advances in technology, efforts to reduce environmental impact or to improve employee wellbeing, there has been a shift towards work-life balance and working close to home or directly from home formed a big part of this. Of course, cut to 2020 and what was once an optional working arrangement, suddenly became mandatory.

It is safe to say that in January 2020, most employees would have said that occasionally working from home offered convenience when needed; saved commuting costs and afforded parents vital time to be with their children. This is undoubtedly still the case but the enforced and continual nature of having to work from our bedrooms and back offices has presented its own issues, at times causing us to feel isolated and unconnected.

So the return to the office is a hot topic for employees and employers. Most of us are keen to maintain the convenience of working close to home but we’re also eager to once again interact with our colleagues in a safe and socially-distanced way.

Supporting our customers during troubling times

This was certainly the case for our client WMR, which supplies waste and recycling services to businesses in the leisure industry. Based within Needspace? flexible office space at Crawley Business Centre, the company closed its offices during lockdown and we supported their overheads by lowering their rent during this period. When they reopened, they soon realised that they needed more space to better support social distancing and we were able to offer them three alternatives within the same building, at the same price.

The best of both worlds with work and home

A recent BBC study found that 50 major UK employers had no plans for all employees to return to the office full time. This is a huge step-change and brings with it undoubted concern that this culture shift will put our once bustling cities at risk while also having longer-term impacts on mental health and wellbeing. We need to find a way for employees to prioritise their home life while ensuring that accessible, flexible and safe office space is available to them and, crucially, that they can easily transition between the two. In a post-Covid era, an employer may look for offices to let in London but this search will have a new level of focus on flexible working arrangements and easy, commutable access between home and work.

Finding a balance that works for families

2020 has put the vast majority of families under immense strain. Working parents have battled guilt while being torn between their work and having to serve as teachers for their reluctant pupil offspring. Meanwhile, children have had to make sense of an incredible amount of change while not being able to see their friends or family. There are working parents still navigating their way through a nonexistent support network and a desire to be both a good parent and good employee. And the solution to these challenges will ultimately all come down to balance.

The big question for us is how our industry can support this culture shift. Flexibility has always been built into our managed office provision at Needspace? and the strategic location of our buildings, the vast majority within the commuter belt of London’s zone two, is a much bigger draw than ever before. So we’re well placed to serve this shift in employment priorities.

Working trends are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic requirements and the provision of high quality, flexible workspace for small, growing businesses in commutable locations is pivotal. Our response at Needspace? is to continue giving businesses everything their employees need to maintain a true work-life balance.

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