London’s offices over half full for first time since start of pandemic

·2 min read
<p>The offices of Canary Wharf</p> (Getty Images)

The offices of Canary Wharf

(Getty Images)

London’s offices are more than half full for the first time since the start of the pandemic in March last year as the return to desks gathers pace.

The landmark was passed last Thursday when data from analysts Metrikus, which uses sensors to detect how many people are moving around buildings, showed that offices were 50.51 per cent occupied.

A new high was set on Tuesday when occupancy hit 51.44 per cent. It was last above 50 per cent on March 12, the day that Boris Johnson warned that Britain faced its “worst public health crisis for a generation” and that “many more” people would die.”

However, even while workspaces gradually fill up again as the worst of the Covid crisis fades away, there were predictions on Thursday from one of the London’s biggest office landlords that the pattern of work will never be the same again.

David Lockyer, head of Broadgate at property giant British Land, which owns 22.7 million sq ft of floor space, said the company was now assuming that the average worker will spend a full day less a week in the office after the pandemic compared with before.

It believes that the average number of days commuting will fall from around 4.2 days to 3.2 days, a historic shift to hybrid working entirely brought about by the lockdowns and working from home experiences of the past year.

However, he said that this would be largely offset by strong employment growth and a demand for more spacious offices, meaning that the “overall net net will only be a slight decrease in space that will not be nearly as dramatic as people might have thought a year ago.”

He added: “Businesses are saying people do want to come back. But does that mean five days a week? The question is was it five days a week even before Covid? But there definitely is pent up demand for coming back for all the reasons you would imagine; particularly collaborating and mixing with colleagues.”

He said 36 per cent of its new 40,000 sq ft Storey flexible workspace at 100 Liverpool Street was already let with “active discussions” underway on another 40 per cent.

Official Government advice remains to work from home if possible but that is expected to be lifted on June 21. More workers are expected to return next week when going to pubs and restaurants indoors will be allowed from Monday.

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