Demand for office space outside London could soar, claims KPMG report

New ways of working will boost UK productivity and increase employment levels in cities outside of London, according to a new report from KPMG. And as businesses in some sectors prepare for employees to spend two to three days a week working from home on a permanent basis, demand for office space could see capacity potentially increase by as much as 40 percent, according to a new KPMG report, New working patterns and the transformation of UK business landscape.

The increased availability of office space in major business hubs is expected to attract businesses from smaller areas to fill up the vacant space, with cities like Manchester, Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds and Birmingham set to see employment rise by 5-10 percent as a result. This will have a significant knock on effect for demand for office space.

Areas in central London are also expected to benefit, as well as smaller towns and cities with a large proportion of the workforce working partially from home. Meanwhile, less dense business areas could see a decline in employment and may need to be transformed into more residential, leisure, retail and other uses.

As the business landscape consolidates, KPMG analysis also claims the change could boost overall UK labour productivity by 0.5 percent, thanks to businesses being able to tap into a larger pool of workers, suppliers, and clients.

Yael Selfin, Chief Economist at KPMG UK, commented on the report: “As we emerge from the pandemic, businesses need to adapt to the new environment they will be facing. Some may choose to relocate to larger business hubs to boost profitability, while others in less central areas could see their local customer base profile change. While the overall impact on the UK economy is expected to be positive, the changes ahead could prove challenging for those businesses already saddled by the pandemic.”

The report examines how local high streets in residential towns and neighbourhoods are expected to reap the benefits of greater homeworking through increased demand by residents during the week. But the impact on high streets across the UK is unlikely to be uniform. Some places may be hit relatively hard by the loss of office workers due to their proximity to a larger business hub, which may be compounded by the loss of commuter footfall among remaining employees due to the prevalence of working from home.

Yael Selfin added: “As people spend more time working from home and less time in the office, we could see a revival of the local high street.

“They will need to transform into places of purpose to meet demand for community-based services, hospitality, culture, as well as retail. High street offering in smaller towns and cities may need to become more focused on residents’ needs and less focused on businesses and commuters.

“This transformation will require local government, residents and businesses to work together to map their future shape and make concrete plans to support and enable the necessary changes to make the most of the new post-Covid business reality.”

Chris Hearld, Head of Regions at KPMG UK, commented: “Over time, a shift in business location could support the rise of several major business hubs across the UK. An increase in the concentration of businesses and workers has the potential to make those businesses located there more productive and enable these areas to serve as the engines of economic growth. This should also support the Government’s Levelling Up agenda. Cities like Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, and Newcastle stand to benefit from such a consolidation of business locations. For this to happen they will need government to work closely with local leaders to ensure the transition is smooth and any barriers to growth are quickly ironed out.”