Linklaters has decided to take on more London office space at its new home of 20 Ropemaker Street in the latest example of the industry rowing back on plans to shrink premises.
The firm, which originally signed the lease for the 300,000 sq ft base in February 2020 with the option of ‘right-sizing’ the space in the future, will add three additional floors to occupy all 17 levels of the development. The change will give it almost 20% more office space.
However, the new office will still be smaller than its current One Silk Street headquarters according to someone with knowledge of the situation.
Management took the decision after several recent consultations with the firm’s partnership.
The decision comes as firms grapple with the issue of hybrid working post-pandemic, with many back to full capacity but only during midweek.
According to someone with knowledge of the situation, Linklaters looked at ways to strike a balance between “a new way of working where the office is not fully occupied and making sure people want to be in”.
“People aren’t coming in 100% of the time and that creates some potential to drop down from the current [space] levels”, they said, “but it’s less space than the firm’s got now and you don’t want to go too low. What if people won’t have anywhere to sit and if they can’t get a hotdesk? That’s not going to encourage people to be in office.”
Another person stated that the motivation behind the office change was about how much space the firm felt it needed “to provide a high-quality office environment for when people are in the office”.
The firm is still in the early stages of working on the precise design and layout of the headquarters and the process will continue over the coming years.
The stance firms have taken when it comes to operating cost-efficient premises has varied across the industry. A lot of firms have reduced space, such as Hogan Lovells, HFW and DWF which is currently on the hunt for a smaller space in many of its locations. However, smaller buildings don’t necessarily mean huge cost savings as many firms are looking to improve the quality of their buildings.
Knight Frank’s partner and head of London tenant representation Richard Proctor said he is not seeing firms pinching pennies when it comes to space and saving some square footage, but instead “trading up” by focusing on better amenities, outdoor area and sustainability credentials.
Some firms changing their strategy as the hybrid working pattern of working becomes clearer. Last week Slater and Gordon opened an office in London after “looking at trading conditions”, despite stating in May 2020 that it was shuttering its City base and all 200 London employees would work from home permanently.
Other firms are looking to grow their headcount. U.S.-based Jenner & Block has opted to significantly increase its London space.
With reporting by Paul Hodkinson.