Huge numbers of the UK population have got used to working from home and many are keen to continue remote working when the pandemic ends. Yet neither employees nor employers seem ready to consign the physical office to the dustbin just yet. In this chapter of our white paper, we debate what role the office has to play and explore its purpose.

Across the country, large businesses like BP, Lloyds Bank, Google, Linklaters, Facebook and HSBC have said that employees need not come back to the office full time. Others, like Twitter, have said employees need never return there at all. Many are rethinking how and why they use office space.

Covid-19 has given businesses an opportunity to reimagine what is needed from this space. Employers need to assess whether they want to retain an office presence and if so, in what form. We consider how the health and safety of staff should be the priority to encourage employees back to the workplace and ensure that employers can comply with their legal and moral obligations. This, not space or cost saving, must be at the heart of any office design or re-design.

A permanent shift in working practices (particularly for office-based roles) in the aftermath of the pandemic could further exacerbate office decline in city centres. We consider how this could promote the rise of localism and community. And we caution investors and business owners seeking prime, well-located office space to consider the resilience of the existing design stock in light of the need to suppress transmission of the virus.

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