Tom ReesSun, 4 April 2021, 9:14 pm
Civil servants will be able to drop into “hybrid” office spaces across the country after the Government signed a deal with one of the world’s biggest flexible working companies.
The agreement with IWG will provide private office space in 10 cities and will also allow some officials to use any of the office giant’s sites.
Whitehall sources said the deal included the Department for Work and Pensions and its new temporary job centres. Government staff involved in the scheme will be able to access its network of co-working spaces as bosses increasingly bet on hybrid working where time is split between home and the office.
It comes as the Government promises to move more civil service jobs out of London as part of its plans to “level up” the country.
IWG, meanwhile, is pitching its flexible space as a middle ground between homeworking and fixed offices. It is also understood to be nearing a “hybrid” deal with a major accounting firm in the UK after already securing similar agreements with FTSE 100 bank Standard Chartered and Japanese firm Nippon Telegraph and Telephone.
“We’ve signed up more companies in the last six weeks [to] two months than we’ve signed up in our entire history, it’s a big change to hybrid working,” said Mark Dixon, chief executive at IWG. He said the shift in the UK was among the largest that IWG, which operates in more than 110 countries, has seen globally.
“London’s going to have to rethink its whole raison d’etre,” Mr Dixon said. “It’s still going to be very important. But it’s a very expensive place to work for individuals in their time and their commute and companies because London’s very expensive per square foot.”
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has dismissed claims that flexible working threatened city centres. In February he said: “The better remote communication gets, and the more people can see other talk on mobile devices, there’s a paradox – the more actually they want to see other face-to-face. I think London and our great cities will be full of the buzz and life and excitement again, provided people have confidence about coming back into those city centres.”
Nonetheless, surveys suggest that many firms believe the pandemic has permanently transformed working patterns as businesses look to save money on rents and staff enjoy more time at home.
A report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that almost two thirds of companies planned to move to a hybrid working model, splitting staff time between the home and office.
It also found that most businesses did not experience a drop in productivity from staff working from home with a third saying it even boosted output.
IWG has seen a marked shift in demands from its clients during the pandemic. Demand for suburban office space has risen by 32pc while city centre enquiries are down 10pc, its data suggest.
Demand in the City of London has dropped by a quarter while interest in other regions is booming. Wiltshire, Ipswich and Heathrow have seen a 110pc, 59pc and 25pc pick-up in demand, respectively, the company revealed,
The Department for Work and Pensions declined to comment.