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FTSE 100 firms share latest London office plans following WFH year, with many set to embrace flexible working

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Residential property investor plots £500m land buying spree in London, with plans to create rental homes
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n March 2020 the first Covid-19 lockdown started, and what followed for many businesses was a major shake-up of where people did their jobs. The government ordered people to work from home where possible, and scores of office-based staff started doing their jobs remotely.

The Evening Standard last summer contacted FTSE 100 firms to get an insight into how many UK-based office workers they have, how many were still working from home or were back in the office, and what plans there were for having most people back in. You can look at the findings here.

Since then many people have continued to do their jobs outside of HQs, and companies are looking at what office space they may or may not want when lockdown rules ease.

This month this paper did another survey, asking firms on London’s blue-chip index about the size of their offices in the capital and how important or less important offices in the capital will be post-pandemic.

Businesses were also asked whether there are plans to reduce, keep the same, or increase the amount of office space they have in London over the next three years.

Not all companies responded, some pointed out they have little or no space in the capital, and others answered some of the questions. In addition some groups said they had already planned new ways of working pre-Covid. Of those that replied and that the poll was relevant to, many pointed to a future that involves more flexible working.

Below is a look at what companies had to say to the Evening Standard:

The private equity firm has around 150 staff in London and occupies around 35,000 square feet. A final decision has not yet been taken, but 3i said it is likely to “maintain our existing set-up”.

The mining giant has a little over 140,000 square feet in the capital and had over 500 employees based out of that before the pandemic.

The group said: “We have no plans to change our office space requirements as a result of coronavirus. With regards to returning to the office, we will follow government guidelines and we expect that our employees will then start to come back to the office when they feel comfortable doing so, including in their commute.”

Anglo American added: “Whilst the office will always be there for those that wish to come in, and we expect that many will want to, we do appreciate that employees have experienced some benefits thanks to the flexibility of working from home over the past year and will want to retain that flexibility going forward. Although we do not expect employees to wish to permanently work from home, at Anglo American we have always respected flexible working, and we will continue to do so post-pandemic.”

We do appreciate that employees have experienced some benefits thanks to the flexibility of working from home over the past year

Cyber security group Avast has some 140 office-based staff in London. Chief people and culture officer Rebecca Grattan said: “In 2020, we changed our employee contracts, so even when we reopen our London office, our colleagues will have the flexibility to work from home, from the office or a mixture of both. “

Grattan added: “We want to give our colleagues the freedom to manage their own day-to-day working pattern, to choose where and when they work depending on individual situations/contexts, and so retaining our existing office space will still be important to us.”

 Grattan also said: “The pandemic has changed working practices forever but also provides opportunities for businesses to offer their employees greater flexibility; empowering working parents and recruiting talent from a wider geographical area. However, we still recognise the benefits of human and social interaction, which is essential for our mental health and well being. For these reasons, we therefore envisage retaining our presence in London.”

The insurance firm said: “We remain committed to our head office in the City of London and we have a lease on the building until 2024. As the UK’s leading insurer, it’s important Aviva remains in the heart of the City, which continues to be a leading international centre for insurance.”

The housebuilder has over 38,000 square feet across three London offices. There are a round 250 staff at these properties, however, many of these employees also base themselves out of construction sites a number of days a week. 

Barratt has no plans to reduce office space in the next three years.

Chief executive David Thomas said: “Our London offices will always remain important for encouraging collaboration and contact between our employees, which is fundamental to the wellbeing, creativity and effectiveness of our teams. That being said, the ways of working which we and many other businesses have implemented and embraced during the pandemic will certainly enable working patterns to be more flexible in the future.”

The oil producer is introducing a new hybrid model of working for staff who had previously been based in the office full time, balancing working in the office with working remotely from home – typically in a 60:40 split.

 The company said: “Over the past year, we have learnt how effectively people can work remotely, but also the importance of collaboration and innovation and how this is still most effective face-to-face. The new model – bp work/life – recognises the value and importance of both. We believe it will offer individuals and teams a more flexible, engaging and dynamic way of working and enable us all to take greater ownership over how we work. “

The energy giant said it will be changing and reconfiguring its offices over time.

BP has a number of London offices:

-St James’s Square HQ. It sold this in November 2020 with a two year lease back. This gives it time to look at options for new space potentially in future.

-Canary Wharf. In mid 2020 it agreed to take space in 25 North Colonnades, which will be ready for occupation in 2022.

Sunbury-on-Thames – a business park where BP has space.

The maker of Dunhill cigarettes and Vuse vaping devices has approximately 190,000 square feet in London, and nearly 1000 permanent employees based in Globe House (the London head office).

The group has no current plans to move the head office out of Globe House.

A company spokesman said: “Our immediate and ongoing priority is the health and well-being of our employees while we all continue to follow UK Government guidelines.  We will be reviewing our workplace practices in due course to determine which arrangements are most appropriate for the business and our employees once current restrictions have been lifted.”

The property developer has 40,000 square feet of offices at York House, its HQ, in the West End. Close to 500 worked there pre-pandemic.

British Land said it reviews the amount of office space it uses on a regular basis and it currently has no plans to change this.

Chief executive Simon Carter said: “Covid-19 will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on working patterns. While the pandemic has shown that people can work more flexibly, high quality offices in great locations with the right amenities have a vital role to play in supporting learning, fostering culture and encouraging collaboration and social interaction.”

 The telecoms group has around 500,000 square feet of office space in the capital. The main building is currently BT Centre. It agreed a sale and leaseback deal there in 2019 and plans to move the HQ, originally set for 2021, to a new building, One Braham in Aldgate.

The company is in middle of its ‘better workplace programme’, which has the ambition to both consolidate to fewer buildings as well as creating a network of significant regional hubs.

A BT spokesman said: “Since we announced our move to BT’s new HQ in London’s Aldgate East two years ago, the line between office and home working has been blurred and looks set to stay this way for a long time to come. While teams will have greater flexibility on how they divide their time between office and home, the office will remain a core part of life at BT.”

He added: “All desk-based colleagues will continue to have a dedicated BT work location and the office will be the central focal point for meetings, collaboration and the buzz of working life; our new HQ at One Braham, like all our other new locations, has been designed specifically with this way of working in mind – and with digitally enabled connectivity throughout, powered by 5G and full fibre broadband.”

BT has signed to take space at the One Braham development

/ BT

Bunzl, a provider of workspace supplies such as paper cups, had around 50 employees in London offices at the start of the pandemic, and plans to keep the amount of space it has in the capital the same over the next three years.

Chief executive Frank van Zanten. said: “We are a very decentralised business with a small London head office and multiple global facilities.  While many of our 20,000 colleagues globally have continued to work on site, sourcing and delivering essential items for frontline heroes and businesses, others have shifted to working from home where possible, including those in our London office. I believe this period has highlighted both the positives and negatives of working from home.2

He added: “Although flexible working will certainly remain a feature of the workplace going forward I believe the office environment will remain hugely important for collaboration and socialising.  However, we do expect there will be a greater focus on cleaning and hygiene in office spaces and ensuring employee safety.”

Guinness and Smirnoff vodka maker Diageo had already planned to reduce its office size in London before the coronavirus outbreak.

In 2019 the drinks firm said it would be moving its global headquarters from a building in Park Royal, to 16 Great Marlborough Street in Soho. As planned, the move is taking part in 2021 with 900 employees across Diageo’s London-based operations coming together.

Diageo said at the time that the move would offer the opportunity “to create an agile, world-leading working environment for all its London-based employees and reduce its combined 200,000 square feet of office space to a more efficient 105,000 square foot building”.

The steel and mining firm has around 700 square feet in London which it is likely to keep over the next three years. Employees are likely to return to the office once the government guidance changes around working from home.

Paddy Power owner Flutter has 80,185 square feet in the capital used by some 771 staff pre-Covid. It said a refurbishment of its Hammersmith office was already planned and underway ahead of the pandemic, which included a reduction in size as part of a move towards more flexible working.

 Conor Grant, chief executive of Flutter UK & Ireland said: “Our office in Hammersmith will continue to be one of the main office hubs for our business. We’re currently operating a “home first” approach, due to be reviewed in July.  As we emerge from the pandemic we will accelerate the work which was already underway to support a more flexible way of working aiming for a positive balance between home and the office.”

As we emerge from the pandemic we will accelerate the work which was already underway to support a more flexible way of working

Intermediate Capital Group

ICG, a global alternative asset manager in private debt, credit and equity, said it has around 47,000 square feet in London where some 350 worked out of pre-Covid. It plans to keep the same amount of space in the next three years.

International Airlines Group

The firm behind airlines such as British Airways said it has 80 office-based employees based on one floor.  The company will review returning to the office in conjunction with its  employees’ views on flexible working and government guidelines. IAG plans to keep the same amount of office space.

The property developer and landlord’s London head office totals 41000 square feet where 450 office-based staff were before the pandemic. There are no plans to reduce the space.

Chief executive Mark Allan said: “The Covid pandemic has clearly demonstrated how important a role the office has to play in our working lives but also how much that role has changed. People’s priorities have adapted to the changing world around them, and with that so must the office adapt. We need to offer the best environment to foster wellbeing in the workplace and encourage a vibrant community not just a place to work.”

 Allan added: “The office is here to stay but it has to work for this new environment by fulfilling its vital role of fostering culture, collaboration and employee development.” 

L&G has around 1000 staff in London offices, of whom 20-25% were agile (not permanently office-based) before the pandemic.

 There are no current plans to change total space, although layouts may change.

A company spokesman said: “L&G has said previously that while we expect to see greater flexibility going forward, the office remains an important component of how we work – collaboration and teamwork, creativity, employee wellbeing and for some people who find home-working difficult, being in the office aids productivity.”

The group said that feedback is has had from staff is that 77% want to work from home three or more days a week in the future.

As part of a strategic review announced, the firm is targeting reducing office space by 8% in 2021 and by 20% over three years. This is total office space, so not just in London.

London Stock Exchange Group

Across the UK London Stock Exchange Group has around 4,000 employees (as of 2019) – the large majority of which are based in London. It will retain its global headquarters at Paternoster Square in the City.  

David Shalders, chief operating officer at LSEG, said: “We have demonstrated our ability to operate with the vast majority of our employees working from home. However, we look forward to welcoming our people back into the office when we are able, while retaining the benefits and greater flexibility associated with remote working.”

The group said last Summer it was closing its Regents House office, but it does not have any more plans to close London properties. It is currently in the process of making changes to its 440 Strand and 250 Bishopsgate offices to make sure they are ready for the banking group’s new ‘ways of working’, once staff return post-pandemic.

 A NatWest Group spokesman said: “We are currently planning for our return to the office, building our new ways of working model, and making changes to our offices to meet our future needs. This new hybrid way of working will balance the advantages of working from home with the benefits of connecting with colleagues in person. We will be updating our colleagues on what these changes will mean for them in due course.”

Learning company Pearson has around 180000 square feet of office space in the capital, where around 1400 staff were based out of pre-pandemic.

The company said it is being more efficient with space as more employees look for flexible working, and this will mean a reduction in space over time.

Chief executive Andy Bird said: “London is home to Pearson’s global headquarters and we are committed to our office on the Strand. The world of work, like the world of learning, is rapidly changing. We are transforming our offices into more modern, collaborative spaces to support the flexible work needs of our employees. We want them to be able to come and work in an office, not just at a desk. We are also committed to supporting them to work from home if they choose.”

The mining giant’s global HQ is in London and it has around 33,000 square feet of space in the capital.

The company said in 2019 it re-designed its London office to be more flexible with hot desks and collaboration areas.

Rio Tinto has now introduced a flexible working policy for office-based employees globally so staff can split their time between office and home.  The London office remains closed at this time but once reopened, Rio Tinto said it anticipates “that it will feature as an important part of the working week for many of our employees, especially for face-to-face meetings, networking and team collaboration”.

The supermarket group is reducing office space by  two floors in offices in Holborn as well as closing an office in Victoria.

The global investment manager has 304,446 square feet of London office space where some 2500 people worked out of before the ‘work from home’ guidance started. It plans to keep the same amount of space.

Last year Schroders permanently embraced flexible working.

The warehouse landlord has around 11,500 square feet of offices in the capital where some 100 people work. Segro is reviewing the amount of space it has and the configuration of that space.

Chief executive David Sleath said: “There are obvious benefits to working in an office environment in terms of ease of communication and collaboration, as well as helping to develop our company’s culture.  London will remain a key centre of financial and commercial activity and we will be retaining a strong base here.  However, we have learned from the pandemic that there are times when home working is more productive and suits the lifestyle of our people.”

Sleath added: “In order to support our ambition to be a more inclusive and diverse business, we have already announced a new agile working policy to give our staff the flexibility to choose where they work.  In practice, I envisage most of our people working from the office around three days a week and remotely – whether at home or at our sites – for the remaining days.”

The wealth manager has around 150,000 square feet in London and has no current plans to change this.

The firm added: “We will assess this in line with business needs as society emerges from the pandemic.”

The firm had around 800 people in London office space before the crisis, and no plans to change the current space. 

Chief executive Stephen Bird said: “The future of our offices is genuinely hybrid. We want our offices to be collaboration spaces where people actively want to be. We’ve already put the infrastructure in place.  In our London office at Bow Bells House we’ve completely redesigned the space, removing the banks of cramped desks to create open-plan zones for people to interact and generate ideas. We also installed new kitchens to make the office a genuinely enticing place to work in. We are ready for staff to return and are just waiting for the safe point to get on with it.”

The future of our offices is genuinely hybrid

The consumer goods giant said its plan for a new campus in Kingston remains the same. Should the scheme be granted planning permission, Unilever will occupy the campus office buildings in Winter 2023/2024. The move would bring together around 2,000 employees from five existing sites in London and Surrey into two office buildings built to the highest sustainability standard.

Alan Jope, chief executive of Unilever said: “We see a hybrid future of work, where people might spend a couple of days in the office and two or three days at home or working remotely. This has unlocked tremendous productivity and flexibility in the Unilever team.”

The advertising giant has around 35 offices across London that it was already in the process of consolidating before Covid. Before the crisis it had some 10,000 employees in London offices.

WPP is investing in in three campuses along the South Bank – which includes its existing Sea Containers building – “that will establish a major creative hub in this thriving part of London and reduce our space by around 20% through flexible working”.

Mark Read, chief executive of WPP said: “We will never go back to working in the way we did before and our people will work more flexibly, in our offices, with our clients and from home.”

Read said: “As a people-centric organisation, with creativity at its heart, we will define the role of the office around bringing people together, collaborating, learning and building a strong culture, all to create extraordinary work for our clients.” 

A number of people in London have worked remotely since March 2020 when the first lockdown started

/ PA

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The Hut Group strikes jumbo $1 billion fundraiser as SoftBank comes on board

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The Hut Group strikes jumbo $1 billion fundraiser as SoftBank comes on board
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-commerce large The Hut Group now struck a advanced joint venture offer with Japanese expense huge SoftBank that values its new organization-to-business tech arm at $6.3 billion – the exact benefit that the complete corporation floated at very last 12 months.

TRG is ideal known for promoting elegance and conditioning nutritional supplements on the web all over the environment. But it also has a division that handles on the internet profits for 3rd functions, named Ingenuity.

SoftBank, regarded for using large bets on technological innovation all around the planet, has right now bought an option to invest in 20% of Ingenuity in a elaborate deal that sees it invest $730 million in the team.

If it ended up to invest in the Ingenuity stake, it would pay $1.6 billion less than the terms of today’s deal.

As well as injecting dollars to expand Ingenuity, SoftBank will also group up with the company to distribute it to other organizations it owns or has major stakes in.

Analysts speculated that could involve on the internet retailing giants this sort of as Yahoo Japan.

Today’s offer will inevitably give increase to speculation that THG will break up off Ingenuity as a different business on the inventory marketplace.

The Softbank funds injection comes as element of a sophisticated deal right now which contains a $1 billion fundraiser for THG to devote in takeovers.

That sum is made up of the $730 million from Softbank in addition a share inserting of up to $270 million such as up to $85 million from its pre-IPO shareholder Sofina.

Separately, THG currently introduced a $255 million takeover of Bentley Laboratories, a US upmarket splendor goods developer and company.

Softbank’s financial commitment into Ingenuity catches the division at such an early phase that it is not even nevertheless a individually shaped subsidiary. The procedure of producing an unique lawful entity to acquire the Japanese giant’s funds will start off now.

Barclays, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Jefferies are performing as joint global coordinators and joint bookrunners for the inserting, which will be of up to 32 million shares at 596p – tonight’s closing price tag for the inventory.

The shares had been floated at 600p, since when they surged ahead of drifting down because January as some of the steam came out of tech enterprise valuations.

Analysts have when compared Ingenuity to being like Ocado’s division which runs robotic warehouses for other grocery giants.

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