Oct 28, 2020

Working From Home and The Future of Office – A Global Update

Back in July, PMG CEO Scott McKenzie wrote an article on the future of the office, which you can read here. It covered the point that tenants have contractual lease obligations with their office spaces and can’t just up and leave, alongside the argument for staff productivity, our innate need to interact, and the office being a space to cultivate team cohesion, creativity and collaboration.

As the months have gone on, and despite the continued threat of COVID-19, more evidence continues to back the argument for the office to remain an integral part of business operations.


A ‘Business Impact of Coronavirus’ survey from the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics (8 October 2020) showed 67% of businesses surveyed across all industries do not intend to use increased homeworking as a permanent business model going forward[1].

Of those businesses, 66% reported it was because it was not suitable for their business and 10% reported it was because it had reduced communication. In addition, 24% reported a decrease in productivity.

Tech giant Oracle and human resource firm Workplace Intelligence also released a report[2] that found 2020 to be the most stressful year in the history of the global workforce, with 78% of over 12,000 employees, managers, HR leaders and C-level executives surveyed across 11 countries stating the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health. Staggeringly, 85% of people said their mental health issues from work negatively affect their home life as well, and 25% said they have been burnt out from overwork as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • 78% say the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health
  • 85% say their mental health issues at work negatively affect their home life
  • 25% say they have been burnt out from overwork as a result of COVID-19

As a company that values our people and culture, these results highlight the responsibility business owners have to look after the health and wellbeing of staff.

A British Conduct Furnishing Association (BCFA) Market Overview reported[3] isolation being a big driver for disengagement among employees and working remotely full-time can adversely impact mental health.

It found 41% of remote employees reported higher levels of stress working from home, compared with 25% of their counterparts who work in an office. In all, only 15% of employees indicated they wanted to work from home full-time.

In conclusion, the report stated: “The evidence is clear that businesses need engaged employees to increase productivity. Offices and collective spaces are key to this, delivering employee choice, control and balance increasing engagement.”

New Zealand

Many of those in Auckland would have noticed the traffic feels as heavy as it did pre-COVID-19.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Industry’s latest COVID-19 transport impact survey (29 September 2020[4]) reports 76% of Aucklanders surveyed are not working at home most of the time. While this figure was as low as 47% in Alert Level 4 in April, it significantly increased in the subsequent lowering of Alert Levels but states that work flexibility could be partly why traffic is not yet back to the pre-alert level of 89%.

Auckland Traffic Figure

Global design firm Unispace’s Asia-Pacific Managing Director Rob Aird recently shared in an article[5] that he expects a bigger return to the office over the coming months, with more people wanting to be an office environment and businesses needing them back.

“A degree of working from home and flexibility will remain because it is good for everyone. But leaders we are talking to are realising that there’s just no substitute for the office,” he says. “It’s the single most important tool for driving collaboration, innovation and problem-solving. It offers things you can’t get any other way; at least, not with current technology.”

Feedback from PMG’s 200 commercial tenants around the country, which are all back and operating in their premises, has also been consistent – while they are offering more flexibility to staff, where possible, working from home is not a total solution for business operations.

It remains evident the role of the office is as necessary to the vast majority of businesses as it is to its people, as it provides a more stable environment for mental health, team cohesion and growth than homeworking can.

[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/business/businessservices/bulletins/coronavirusandtheeconomicimpactsontheuk/8october2020#homeworking

[2] https://www.oracle.com/a/ocom/docs/oracle-hcm-ai-at-work.pdf

[3] https://www.thebcfa.com/sites/default/files/uploads/wn-bcfa-report-download.pdf

[4] https://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/resources/covid-19-impacts-on-transport/waka-kotahi-nzta-covid-19-tracking-core-report-wave-21-20200929.pdf

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