CMS survey highlights significant changes to Scottish commercial property requirements post-COVID

Chris Rae, Glasgow-based partner and Real Estate specialist

A NEW survey published by law firm CMS has found that 24% of commercial property occupants in Scotland expect to downsize their office requirements due to Covid-19. The survey findings, which are part of a wider international report by the firm into the impact of the pandemic on commercial real estate, were based on responses from over 200 middle, senior, and C-suite executives based in Scotland.

While nearly a quarter of Scottish respondents said they would downsize commercial property requirements and 18% expected to split offices into different locations, 52% were anticipating no change.

As many offices remain closed throughout Scotland, 46% of respondents said they are planning to work from home more often and 29% say they’ll do less international travel in future. Only 24% expect no change to how they will work post-Covid.

In terms of the effectiveness of homeworking, only 21% of Scottish-based respondents believed it was better for employee productivity. 

Interviewed in late July, 22% of respondents expected to return to the office this month, which is now an unlikely prospect in light of the recent tightening of social restrictions by the Scottish Government. 19% of those surveyed said they expected to return to the office in October while 15% said they’d be unlikely to do so until 2021.

When non-essential work premises are given the green light to reopen, 56% of respondents are planning to put more office cleaning in place; 53% plan to introduce temperature checks for employees and implement more social distancing. Among those surveyed, 31% are planning reducing density within offices; 23% say they’ll be focusing on more having social connections with 20% planning more on-site mental health facilities.

Chris Rae, a Glasgow-based partner and Real Estate specialist said: “There’s little doubt that Covid-19 is proving to be a game-changer for commercial property but there are also encouraging post-pandemic signs for the sector. While nearly a quarter of Scottish occupiers expect to downsize, a small majority is anticipating no change to office requirements once when we are able to return to work.

“The survey also highlights concerns about the productivity of remote working. While many employees will be seeking to work from home more frequently, the office has a key role to play across most industries where the need to interact and collaborate with colleagues, clients and customers remains essential. The office will also continue to be fundamental in establishing the right culture, camaraderie and energy to motivate people within many companies and organisations. 

“Many managers say they are expecting to implement new health, safety and well-being measures in advance of employees returning to the office. While we can expect significant changes to how offices are used, our report suggests this will impact floor plans much more than floor plates in many commercial property premises in Scotland.” 

A full copy of the report Real Estate Re-set: offices and purpose beyond the pandemic is available on request. It provides an annual barometer for the industry and the outlook for the market with published results from the full quantitative survey, conducted by FTI Consulting on behalf of CMS in July 2020. 

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