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Changes to the role, and structure, of the traditional office are being predicted by experts who see a new era of business culture, post-lockdown.

According to Forbes, ‘Many companies have been resistant to letting employees work from home, but this unexpected global work-from-home experiment has forced companies to accept it as a legitimate option. Companies have put greater technology systems and support in place to facilitate mobile working’ and ‘they will expand the acceptability of remote work, and provide more choice and flexibility to employees to work wherever they can get their best work done, including away from the office’.

This puts into question what the traditional office will look like in years to come and how it may also impact upon staff mobility and travel, including the role of the company car.

Some experts anticipate that offices will become places to ‘come together’ rather than ‘go to work’.

An article in Open Access Government, a publication that provides an in-depth perspective on key public policy from around the world, suggests that the office will no longer be desk dominated. Instead it will focus on event style knowledge sharing, cultural refreshment, mentoring and networking.

Forbes agrees, stating that all the things employees love about working at home, such as comfortable places to relax between meetings, will create new demands on the office. Organisations will have a new appreciation for the importance of the office, the critical nature of face-to-face interactions and the ways their workplaces must support employees.

This could all mean we see more remote customer and prospect meetings via the likes of Zoom and Teams. Yet with face-to-face contact and human interaction likely to remain part of our business DNA, as well as being important for our mental health and well-being, will we start meeting customers outside of the office in safer, smaller groups? And will staggered and more flexible working hours change the face of our traditional commute?

According to Mary Dopson-Taylor, customer services director at Grosvenor Leasing, the ideas being muted for future working practices are likely to have the biggest impact on business travel we have ever witnessed.

“Companies we talk to are looking at a wide range of options,” said Mary. “The main one is, of course, working from home for those who do not need to be office-based, and many in the fleet sector have already begun to ask whether this could have an impact on how company cars are used if there is less travel and fewer on site meetings.

“However, businesses are also preparing for greater shift work in certain sectors to reduce the numbers of people at work at any one time, staggered start and end times to moderate the mass arrival and exit of people arriving at, and leaving, work and the avoidance of public transport where possible.

“Interestingly, this could result in more people using their cars to get from A to B, as it offers protected personal space to travel in. We may also see less car sharing as people are anxious of others joining them in a confined space, or can no longer travel together because they work at different times of the day.

“It could also see us moving to a model of ultra-low emission and electric vehicles on lower mileages as conference calling replaces a proportion of physical meetings – particularly those that involve extensive travel. 

“Now that we have grown accustomed to online meetings, many people will challenge the need to drive long distances when they can meet with a click of the mouse – avoiding losing a day of work to attend a 2 hour meeting. And if conference calls are replacing those longer distance meetings, the EV battery range issues are suddenly less of a concern which, alongside other incentives, could be the trigger that sparks a surge in EV uptake.

“The reality is, prior to COVID-19, we were moving towards greater use of public transport, and the growth of car sharing and ride hailing via Apps, to reduce the congestion on our roads and help the environment.

“That’s likely to shift once again to a different model where demand for alternative fuel cars rises, but the mileages they cover each year comes down.”

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