Go back to the office

tiny thoughts Apr 21, 2022

Everyone seems to be talking about the return to the office. We talk about individual preferences, productivity, commute, distractions – but the financial side of it, not so much.

I’ll leave it to others to talk about what makes employees happy (for what it’s worth, I think it’s safe to say it’s not office snacks or ping pong tables), and talk numbers.

In an open plan office layout, it’s recommended that you have 100 square foot per employee; if you (like me) think open space is an assault on both productivity and sanity, then you’ll need 200 square foot per person for a more traditional layout.

In London, depending on where you are, this means at least £5-20K per employee in office costs per year; broadly in line with the couple hundreds per desk per month charged by most flexible office space providers.

If you employ 100 people, your annual office costs in London will likely be anywhere between half a million and two million.

Those are your costs, but your employees are paying to come to the office too. Pre-pandemic, the average person spent 74 minutes commuting per day – unpaid.  For someone on the London living wage of £10.85 per hour, that’s £13.38 per day of dead time; after 220 days spent commuting, that cost totals almost £3,000 per employee. For a high earner on £100K, that cost increases to more like £15,000 annually. Then there’s the very visible cost of at least £5 per day spent on the tube, or £1,100 per year, if the employee lives centrally.

Maybe there is real value in meeting in person, maybe juniors really do benefit from in-person exposure to inspiring leaders (hopefully at least as much as they benefit from being miles away from the toxic ones), maybe there is something to be said for spontaneous brainstorming in certain contexts.

But if you care about the cost of all this for everyone involved, the right question to ask is: how can we translate everything that’s good about in-person work to a remote context, while ditching everything that’s bad – and very costly?

Love and cash flow,


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