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Ideas & Observations

The Big Question

With Chancellor Jeremy Hunt recently advocating workers return to the “default” office, rather than completing tasks at home or from remote locations, what do you see as the future labour landscape? Is the country’s chief fiscal planner right in asserting a central location would boost creativity, or do you believe there is greater value in maintaining employees’ empowerment outside the traditional workplace?


David Gibbs

Commercial director

UK Land Estates

Finding a healthy balance between the workplace and home space is what really pays off for individuals and the businesses they work for.

Progressive firms will promote a healthy mix of home working and office-based activity. 

Factories and offices thrive on communication and collaboration, and lose something when part of the workforce isn’t there, while homeworkers face higher energy and heating bills. 

However, there are benefits, with productivity increasing away from distractions, not to mention zero commutes and therefore fewer vehicles on roads, meaning reduced emissions.

As the owners of some of the region’s largest industrial sites, we want people at work, buying lunch in local cafes, spending in local shops and working out in local gyms.

But we recognise too that successful firms are agile, and that they no longer need such rigid working practices.

However, maybe the really successful businesses are the ones that make sure workspaces are places people want to be – eco-friendly open plan offices with collaboration areas, natural light and outdoor green space.


James Silver

Managing director 


We firmly believe the best offices unlock the potential and creativity of the teams that work there, and that’s why we’re developing Maker & Faber at Riverside Sunderland.

We’re absolutely certain demand will remain, long into the future, for high-quality, well-located office space.  

Being in an office not only promotes collaboration among colleagues and businesses, a strong team ethic and – by virtue of that – improved professional development, but well-designed office spaces are made to deliver an environment that is conducive to an increased sense of wellbeing, which supports effective working practices.  

Though home working and the flexibility it affords has a place, the office still works.


Sophie Ashcroft


56° North

The pandemic was, for many, the proverbial kick up the backside we needed to slow down, reprioritise and realise the world won’t stop spinning if one email isn’t sent.  

In a world where 76 per cent of mothers and 92 per cent of fathers with dependent children are employed, and with childcare costs spiralling, working from home is a game-changer. 

It’s an untaxable and attractive employee benefit giving parents time with their children like they’ve never had before.

It also provides space to think; space to book that boiler appointment, tackle the washing or care for a loved one, all while getting on with the working day. 

But you can have too much of a good thing. 

Fully remote working, while cost efficient, can squeeze the joy. 

There is something about an impromptu brainstorm over a cuppa in the office kitchen with colleagues; it’s where some of the best ideas come from. 

For me, hybrid working is the answer. 

It is more efficient, creates a happier workforce, is better for the planet and provides vital funding for local economies. 

But it comes with a word of warning; working from home is based on trust, empowerment and responsibility between employee and employer. 

When that trust erodes, working from home loses its shine.  


Sim Hall

Managing director 

Populus Select

I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to whether office or home working is best for all businesses and individuals. 

We work with STEM businesses and, obviously, you can’t set up a lab in your spare room.

There is no doubt that returning to the office is best for the economy; it drives footfall for city centre hospitality businesses and maintains commercial property values. 

There is also a strong argument that more junior employees learn, either directly or through osmosis, when they are in the same environment as more seasoned colleagues, so office working is therefore vital to progressing their careers. 

Similarly face-to-face interactions facilitate spontaneous idea generation, improve communication and collaboration, and create a sense of belonging among colleagues.

Working remotely does, of course, have time and money-saving benefits for employees, and it reduces commuting emissions and gives staff a sense of empowerment.

But I can’t see justification for making it the norm. 

A hybrid pattern, which spreads the benefits of both options, seems the logical compromise, and one, I’m sure, the Chancellor probably agrees with.”