Offices should become flexible environments © Flashpop/Getty Images
Offices should become flexible environments © Flashpop/Getty Images

What is the role of the post-pandemic office?

18 October 2021

Companies risk “wasting time and money” by not utilising office spaces properly following the pandemic. 

Richard Eades, global category lead for travel, meetings and events at BP, said travelling for the sake of travelling following the pandemic was a waste of company resources.

“Driving up and down the motorway just to go and sit behind a computer with a headset on is just a waste of company time and money,” he said.

Instead, companies should create more flexible working spaces to gain the most value from offices, he told the Business Travel Show Europe.

Arguing offices will not reach their full capacity again following the adoption of hybrid working models, he said: “We’re clearly not going to have 6,000 people going into the office every day. So are we going to use a break clause and remove that particular building, or actually utilise that building for something different?” 

He said companies could begin to view offices as meeting spaces, but should also look at using offices as event spaces, instead of using external venues for events.

“Those are the kinds of questions that I think large organisations will be looking at asking, what footprint, what assets do we need in future? That's going to influence them in that use of virtual, hybrid and travel opportunities. That could change some of the dynamics in our footprint in the future,” Eades said.

In viewing offices as multi-purpose venues, companies could make better value out of these spaces and save money by not looking to external venues to host events and client gatherings, he argued.  

“We need to open up that office environment. As a travel manager, I need my supply base to be able to come into the office so I can interact with them face to face, otherwise I've got to travel somewhere else to go and meet them in London,” he said.

During a panel discussion about the future of business meetings, Scott Gillespie, managing director at travel management consultancy tClara, said business travel conversations had focused too heavily on meeting external suppliers and not enough on internal connections. 

He argued: “Let me just be as clear as I can. That is an incredibly foolish premise to believe that only client travel should be justified over internal travel.”

He continued: “If you believe that client travel is far more valuable than internal travel, then your organisation should absolutely sell off all its office space. 

“The only reason we have office spaces is because we believe there's great value in having people work close together. So it's like saying, we can't justify a trip that's designed to create innovation, or foster leadership or teamwork or trust and accountability. 

“It's beyond silly. I really hope travel managers can do a better job of advocating for travel for internal purposes because it clearly has value. Oftentimes it will outweigh the trivial trip on an account that has very little revenue opportunity.” 

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