Learning from lockdown: Is there a future for the office?


Covid-19 may have emptied our cities and changed the way some people do their jobs for ever, but reports of the death of the office are premature, writes Dave Rogers

Last month, a former chairman of the National Trust wrote a column for a national newspaper suggesting that the office block had had its day. Simon Jenkins, a former editor of the Evening Standard and The Times, wondered whether office workers now needed office blocks. “When the coronavirus has passed,” he told Guardian readers, “I believe the truth will be revealed.” In other words, no.

Jenkins, it seems, will not be mourning the end of the office block. “It has to be good news,” he went on. He wrote of a decade of London non-planning which meant that hundreds of speculative offices were in the pipeline, most of it “probably useless”.

He will no doubt have been buoyed by the news that the amount of new office space actually being built in the middle of London collapsed in the past six months as the impact of lockdown, jittery developers and staff working from home all helped put the brakes on schemes. The latest London office crane survey from Deloitte showed just 2.6m sq ft began in the period between April and September – a fall of 50% on the previous six months.

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