We spoke to employees, customers and commercial tenants across the UK about their new ways of working to understand what their new ways of working looked like and, critically, what they needed from a professional work environment. Through our conversations, it became clear there are three workspace types:
It’s about more than technology …
There’s no doubt that remote working, hybrid working or home-working has shoved its way into our office lives. However, the technology had already existed for a long time; Skype was launched in 2003, over fifteen years before the lockdown in 2020 that forced everyone to start using video-calls. Working from home can be more productive (by about 13%) but also had a big effect on how connected people felt; two thirds of people reported feeling less connected to their team.
… but technology is still important
Unsurprisingly most people reported using their broadband connection more during 2020/2021. And perhaps also unsurprisingly for anyone who has had a tricky Zoom call, almost half (42%) of people said that they wanted to switch broadband providers. Communication is a big challenge for remote-employees and the technological solutions (such as Google Meet, Teams, Zoom or Slack) rely on a stable internet connection and a quiet environment.
The 3 Types of Employee
Steve likes to keep things separate. He wants to keep work at work, so he can leave it behind when he gets home. He enjoys driving his car and likes meeting up with his mates in the office.
Jane prefers to be at home so she can get more things done. She likes the fact that school runs are easier and she can prepare healthier meals.
The most important thing to Nathan is that he is flexible. He wants to be able to do school runs, errands and work. His philosophy is; it doesn’t matter where I am, as long as I get the work done.
What will the new normal look like?
There is a vast amount of research and anecdotal data about ‘the new normal’. In order to make it easier to understand, we combined the feedback from all our interviews and research to create a simple view of working life from the three perspectives. It highlights the benefits and difficulties faced by all employees.
Dressed and ready to go; Steve checks the GoToWork app on his phone to make sure that a desk & parking space are available; they normally are. He arrives at work early. He’s got enough time to grab a coffee from the local independent and chat to some people from the fourth floor about merger rumours. Paul has seen the proposal for a London office.
Jane gets the kids ready for school. With no commute she’s got plenty of time, so she feels more relaxed. Everyone has breakfast at the table; it’s quality time she really values. Jane walks the kids to school and is back with plenty of time to make a cup of coffee. She heads up to her home office.
Nathan makes sure that everyone’s bags are packed. Kids have their lunches and he has power-packs, cables, pens etc. It’s a big hassle if he doesn’t have the right cable. Nathan drops the kids at school and then drives round the corner to The Kraft, the place for “caffeinated co-workers”. Nathan likes to get there early because the best seats are often taken. The queue is long with students and school-runs, but it goes down quickly.
After the stand-up, Steve heads to his desk. As long as a desk is free he can take it. Every desk has a monitor and broadband, so it doesn’t matter where he sits. He sits near the window and gets on with writing the report. As he writes, Steve asks a couple of his colleagues about their projects, adding in their specific information into his report. After a while though, he puts in his earphones as the background chatter begins to get distracting.
Jane pops in a load of washing before she starts the report. When she does, she finds it hard to get the details she needs. She can’t tell if it’s the server or her internet connection. She reboots and gets onto the server to find that Mark hasn’t uploaded the latest project updates. She messages him and waits for his reply. While she waits, she makes another cup of coffee and puts together a salad with stuff from the fridge. By the time she’s back at her desk, the files are in the folder.
Nathan looks in the folder for the project files and they aren’t there. He messages Mark and Jane. they don’t reply instantly, so Nathan packs up his bag and heads into town to find a birthday present for his sister. He fills out some of the report on his phone. It’s a bit fiddly, but he’s got a gift, so that’s one thing off his mind. He heads back to The Kraft, but when arrives all the tables have gone. He decides to pick up a sandwich and work from home.
Steve, Mark & Paul all head out to the Market Kitchen for lunch. Sometimes Steve brings his own lunch, but today they’ve got a 3-for-2 offer on Mexican Street Food. They share what they’ve heard about the merger. Nothing’s concrete but it looks like they’ll definitely be expanding into London.
Jane works through lunch, finalising her report for this afternoon. She’s got half an hour until the meeting so she takes the dog for a walk and clears her head. She picks up a few bits for dinner on the way home, and then hangs out the washing while the sun’s still out.
Nathan loses a bit of time waiting for a sandwich and driving home. He’s not got long to finish up his report. Fortunately the files are there, so he can fill in the gaps. Clients are coming in at 1pm, so he should head to the office but he probably doesn’t have time to get there. He books a conference room and updates the meeting.
This afternoon is an all-team meeting to discuss strategy. Steve & Paul book a meeting room together. Paul talks about the need for flexibility and agility; without directly mentioning it, he’s sure that a lot of the ideas will work for a new London team. When the call finishes, Paul hangs-up. They talk a bit more about the ideas from the meeting and decide that they’ll work together to push through Steve’s suggestions.
Jane’s looked at the data and has a pretty good idea of what needs to be done. When she signs-in, Mark & Paul are already chatting; waiting for Nathan and a few others. The sound is pretty bad, so she keeps missing words. Again, she’s not sure if this is them or her. There’s a lot of talk about national strategies which seem a bit big for her team. When she signs-off, she messages Nathan.
Nathan signs in to the all-teams meeting. He hasn’t seen some of them in person for quite a while, but they still get on. Steve and Mark lead the meeting with some bold ideas about national reach. Nathan isn’t sure but they seem confident. Jane keeps glitching in and out, so if she does disagree no-one can hear her. Nathan’s sat in his kitchen and it’s starting to get uncomfortable, so he’s happy when Steve brings the meeting comes to a close.
Steve gets in his car and heads home. The traffic isn’t as bad as it used to be, but the lights take longer, so he’s still moving slowly most of the way. He uses the time in the car to call Mark in private. Steve calls in at the supermarket on the way home for ice lollies for the kids. Dinner’s on the table and as he puts his laptop by the door, he feels like he can focus on his family.
Jane chats to Nathan for a while about the strategies. They decide they’ll wait for the next meeting. She’s got about an hour until the kids get home from their after-school clubs, so she reads a book for a bit before the chaos begins again. As the kids walk in the door, Jane finishes off dinner. She nips upstairs to make sure she’s copied all her project files over to the server and then sits down with the family.
Nathan takes the car back up to The Kraft and grabs a seat by the window until it’s time to pick up the kids. He chats on messenger to Jane about the meeting and uploads his project files from his phone to the shared folder. The drive from school to home is a lot shorter than the city but Nathan’s still stuck in traffic for a bit. They order pizza on the way home and are sitting down with a slice by six.
Conclusions: The 3 Cs
What can we learn? One size doesn’t fit all but all workspace providers will need to consider the three Cs: connection, collision and call-spaces.
All workers will be looking for a good connection. It’s one of the things that commercial office space can offer over coworking, home or coffee shop. If you want to provide a 'better than average' connection, it's good to know the UK average is 79 Mbps.
Meeting up (by chance) with colleagues from different departments can only really happen when you share a space. According to Where Good Ideas Come From (by Steven Johnson) this is how the best ideas are generated. With this in mind it's important commercial landlords offer more than just desk space.
Video or phone calls are increasing and the need for a quiet and private space is growing too. Home is okay (if you don't have neighbours, pets or kids) so it’s another area where dedicated office space is best, but only if the office has those spaces ready.
How can we help?
If you’re a commercial landlord, start reviewing your spaces against the 3Cs. Many spaces will need updating to create more call-friendly spaces and more areas for collaboration & collision. Our building consultancy team can talk to you about the best options from fittings & furniture to remodelling.
If you’re a tenant, the 3Cs are a good way to evaluate your current space. Does your current work-space provide everything your workforce needs for their return to the office? Our lease advisory team can help you find the right fit, whether that’s working with your landlord to make internal improvements or finding a new space that better suits your new needs. If you’re not sure and want some advice on what to do next, there’s a whole network of experts at Eddisons who can give you the right advice. Just get in touch, and we’ll introduce you to someone who can help.