You can't have missed them, where ever you get your news: the slew of articles about "My First Day Back In The Office", matched in quantity only by "Re-Design Your Office To Encourage Staff Back". Now I know I'm not the only one who likes a nicely fitted out office with some cool designs. One of my colleagues gleefully recounted his private tour of the Bloomberg Building at length, and the Women In Property and BCO building tours are always the events that sell out fastest.
Yet as I read these pieces about how the workplace needs to look great to lure staff back, I'm reminded of the story about two large accountancy firms discussing merger way back in the days when the Big Four were the Big Six. I know, I know, it was in another century. And this is such a memorable story that it may well be fiction rather than fact. But like all good stories, it has just enough truth in it to keep you wondering .
In any merger talks, you need to be clear about who brings what to the deal and to attribute some value to that. You can bet that two firms of accountants are looking closely at their own numbers. They reach the corporate real estate lines in the spreadsheet. Firm One says "Our offices premises are much nicer than yours - we'll need to get rid of all your buildings if the merged firm has two in the same town." Firm Two has to accept that this is harsh but fair. Firm One goes on, "so our buildings should have more value in the calculation than yours." Firm Two replies, "but your staff turnover is so much greater than ours - look how much you spend on recruitment - the condition of the building isn't that important. What matters is how you treat your people".
Dear reader, the merger did not go ahead. But Firm One set out to become a great place to work as a result of that conversation, winning multiple awards for their efforts. When I chaired the recent BCO webinar around the briefing note on Thoughts On Office Reoccupation After Covid-19, I was struck by the panellists' thoughts on the workplace community and the importance of making people feel safe - and that these were just as important as new layouts or the amount of cellular space. Hybrid working is right at the top of the agenda for corporate real estate teams and their advisers at the moment. Now, more than ever, they need to be speaking to their colleagues in HR in order to deliver the best outcome for their business.
I don’t think I am the only one to find I can do some elements of my job more effectively from home — a fact that tells us something important about the design of the 21st-century office