Working from home could alter London's skyline forever

Working from home could halt plans for new London’s skyline forever: City’s latest generation of world class skyscrapers face being put on hold if workers don’t go back to their offices

  • Companies giving up or downsizing offices as they change working structure
  • Fears huge developments still under construction in City could be put on hold
  • Some firms are looking at ‘workplace clubs’ to use one building for a few days
  • Fears for sandwich shops near city offices whose trade is likely to remain low

The future of new skyscrapers in London was today in doubt with many of Britain’s workers now told they might not return to the office until next summer.

Companies are giving up or downsizing their offices as they change their working structure following the coronavirus lockdown imposed three months ago.

And there are now fears that huge developments still under construction in the City could be put on hold with developers concerned about opening empty.

Some firms have already left their London offices while others are looking at ‘workplace clubs’ where they would use a building for a few days each month.

It comes amid fears for the likes of gyms, sandwich shops and bars in city centre areas near offices, whose trade is likely to remain low in the coming months. 

Among the major buildings currently under construction in the capital are 1 Undershaft (highlighted red, left) and the Diamond (highlighted red, right)

Deloitte consultants said some big construction schemes could pause. In the City of London, these could include the 984ft 1 Undershaft, also known as ‘The Trellis’ due to its cross bracing

The 56-storey tower The Diamond (centre) is among the skyscrapers set to change the London skyline in the coming years, and it will be the City of London’s third tallest building at 814ft

The Bishopsgate Goodsyard towers development is another that could have to be paused

Consultants at Deloitte said some large construction schemes are likely to pause as people continue to work from home – with many unlikely to return until 2021. 

Among the major buildings currently under construction in the capital are 1 Undershaft, the Diamond and the Bishopsgate Goodsyard towers.

Late payment crisis facing smaller firms has worsened in lockdown

A late payment crisis affecting smaller firms has worsened during the lockdown, according to a new report.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said its research showed that most small firms have been affected by late payment as a result of Covid-19, seriously stifling cashflow.

Firms dealing with the public sector fare no better than those selling to other businesses, said the report.

The federation called for a ‘long-awaited’ review of the Prompt Payment Code to be launched, repeat offenders fined and prompt payment to be made a precondition of state bailouts.

The late payment crisis should be brought to an end as the business community looks to emerge from the current recession, said the FSB.

Almost two thirds of small businesses have been subject to late or frozen payments in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, according to a survey of more than 4,000 firms. 

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said: ‘We expect big companies to stand by their smaller partners and pay them on time.’

Deloitte’s London crane survey estimates construction delays of up to six months, with 22 Bishopsgate in the City among those which could be pushed back.

It said: ‘While there will inevitably be delays in construction programmes, permanently stopping construction that is already underway is unlikely.

‘There were ten schemes equating to 1.4million sq ft on the verge of commencing in mid-March which will undoubtedly be subject to review with on-site work delayed accordingly, whether that be a near-term postponement or a comprehensive rethink.

‘We foresee very few developments being launched in the next six to nine months as decisions will be deferred until there is more stability in the market.’

It is also becoming ever clearer that the return to the office for some companies may never be the same as before. 

Bishopsgate Financial Consulting is among the London-based firms downsizing, and has cut its annual cots by a quarter by giving up its head office in the City.

Mike Hampson, of Tonbridge, Kent, who is chief executive of the firm which employs 65 staff, told the Guardian: ‘We were planning to move offices.

‘We’d given notice just before the lockdown came in. When we started working remotely, we realised we were working very effectively as we were.’

It has bought desks, laptops, screens and printers for staff to create a home office, but kept a ‘virtual office’ in the City along with access to meeting rooms.

Another company that has given up its City head office is Vantage Point Global, which trains graduates for banks and employs 45 people.

Chief executive James Brincat told the Guardian: ‘We are working perfectly well, almost better than before. People are happy they can cut out the commute.’

The company is using a ‘workplace club’ which means it can have access to meeting rooms and lounges for some days of the month, greatly cutting costs.

An image released by the City of London Corporation shows how the City skyline could look by 2026 when current construction projects such as 1 Undershaft and the Diamond are completed

Cranes next to skyscrapers in the City of London today, as the capital remains eerily quiet

A coffee is given to a customer at Pret a Manger on New Cavendish Street in London on June 1

Customers shop at Pret a Manger on New Cavendish Street in London earlier this month

It comes after Barclays chief executive Jes Staley said in April that the bank will not revert fully to its pre-January working habits when the pandemic is over.

Sandwich industry is left ‘devastated’ with footfall not recovering until the end of 2020

The sandwich industry has been ‘devastated’, with the majority of independent shops selling BLTs and salads hardly functioning while people continue to work from home.

Jim Winship, director of the British Sandwich and Food to Go Association, told MailOnline today: ‘Our industry has been devastated by Covid-19.

‘Although some sandwich shops and cafes are starting to reopen, realistically it will be the end of the year before footfall recovers and we can start to get back to some sort of normality.’

There have been growing calls for the Prime Minister to get millions more Britons back into the office to prevent thousands of businesses that rely on them going to the wall.

Pret has admitted that its sales have collapsed by 85 per cent in lockdown.

He added that the ‘notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past’ and investment bankers could work instead from branches.

In addition, Lloyd’s of London expects just 20 per cent of it staff will return to its building, and Facebook said up to half could be working from home by 2030. 

Critics have already called on civil servants to lead by example and save Britain’s high streets by getting back to the office.

City centres are facing financial ruin after officer workers were told to continue working from home until next summer, despite the easing of lockdown.

There are fears that such a move could spell disaster for shops, bars and restaurants that are reliant on trade from commuters and office workers.

But the Home Office has already indicated to staff in Whitehall it could be 12 months until they are back in the office, while only 30 staff have returned to the Westminster office of the business department, a tiny fraction of its workforce.

The business department is tasked with kick-starting the economy and critics have called on ministers to lead by example and get civil servants back in the office. 

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