Business leaders rethink office space reduction plans

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Organisations appear to be scrapping, or rethinking, their plans to cut their use of office space post-pandemic, according to a survey by KPMG.

Chief executives are now less likely to want to reduce their office footprint than six months ago, and many are apprehensive about a fully remote workforce.

Only 17% of the 500 global CEOs polled by the accountancy firm in February and March want to cut some of their office space, compared with 69% surveyed in August 2020. This suggests that some of the downsizing has already taken place, or organisations have changed their mind, said KPMG.

Only 30% are considering a hybrid working model, and just 21% are looking to hire people who work predominantly remotely, compared to 73% who said the same in 2020.

“There has been a noticeable drop in appetite by corporate leaders to make wholesale changes to how employees work, post-pandemic. The Covid-19 crisis has accelerated future of work trends, but many global leaders are taking a more measured approach before making concrete decisions” said Bill Thomas, global chairman and CEO at KPMG.

“Before any decisions are made, CEOs want to be confident that their workforce is protected against this virus. The Covid-19 vaccine rollout is providing leaders with a dose of optimism, as they prepare for a new reality.”

Forty-five per cent do not expect business to return to “normal” until 2022 and 31% say this will happen later this year.

Six in 10 firms want to see over half of their workforce vaccinated before they take any action toward a return to the office, and 21% will ask visitors to inform them of their vaccination status when they visit their premises.

Recent research has revealed that home working has exacerbated feelings of being “always on”, and there are fears that staff will return to the office feeling burnt out.

This feeling has prompted global investment bank Citigroup to ban work-related video calls on Fridays while staff are working from home and designate 28 May as a company-wide holiday to encourage staff to reset.

In a memo circulated to staff this week, chief executive Jane Fraser said: “I know, from your feedback and my own experience, the blurring of lines between home and work and the relentlessness of the pandemic workday have taken a toll on our wellbeing. It’s simply not sustainable.

“After listening to colleagues around the world, it became apparent that we need to combat the ‘Zoom fatigue’ that many of us feel, so I overcame my initial resistance to this idea.

“We are a global company that operates across time zones, but when our work regularly spills over into nights, very early mornings and weekends, it can prevent us from recharging fully, and that isn’t good for you nor, ultimately, for Citi.”

CitiGroup’s announcement came following the news that junior bankers at Goldman Sachs informed the company’s management about their 95-hour working weeks, and threatened they would leave unless improvements were made.

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