What to Do with Empty Office Space

Eighteen million square feet of office space could be empty within five years and around 45% of businesses are looking...

Eighteen million square feet of office space could be empty within five years and around 45% of businesses are looking to downsize their current premises. 

Trends toward remote and hybrid working have put some companies in a difficult position as many will have years remaining on commercial leases. But we’re starting to see some companies using this shift to their benefit. 

Repurposing office space can be an opportunity to generate more revenue, double down on employee wellbeing or create a more inviting and productive office environment. 

This last point is particularly pertinent. Younger employees are now far more discerning about where they work. The office environment and the company attitude to toward employee wellbeing are now as likely to attract potential job candidates as much as salary. 

But what are some ideas for empty commercial space?

Repurposing Office Space 

Share Your Floorspace

It will depend on the nature of your business (and how comfortable you are sharing your working environment), but there’s always the option to open up your office as a co-working space. Remote working isn’t always about working from home. Some people don’t want the crushing commute but still want to interact with others outside of their home. Given the recent upswing in energy bills, people may not want to return to their office but they may prefer dipping in and out of a co-working hub. Lots of small businesses, single traders, start-ups and freelancers are looking for a place to work from but don’t have the money to rent somewhere for themselves. You could rent desks per hour, per day, or on a weekly and monthly basis. 

If this style of co-working doesn’t appeal, you could also try sharing floorspace with another company or organisation. Certainly, this has proved popular in the retail sector where shops share a building but maintain two distinct storefronts once the customer gets inside—the post office has done this. This approach can also work for businesses maintaining a permanent city centre address. Although, as the open access website writes, the days of having a centralised HQ with one building in the city centre is becoming outdated. 

One of the most popular suggestions online is to rent out the space as a professional training area. Training companies may only need to hire a space for a few days a month. It could be a company offering exam sittings, workshops, market research panels or courses. 

It’s worth checking the details of your commercial lease first, however, so that you know it’s permitted under the terms of the contract. 


Employee Wellbeing

Energym eco-pod electricity generating indoor bikes in self-contained unit in front of a plant wall

COVID-19 hasn’t just changed the way we work, it’s also changing the way we think about our office buildings. Employee wellbeing has become a buzzword in recent years, but it’s more than just corporate guff. Increased employee wellbeing is directly linked to increased productivity. One Gallup study concluded that engaged employees had higher levels of productivity, leading to an earnings-per-share growth more than four times that of their competitors.

Workplace wellbeing means that the mental and physical wellbeing of employees is catered for. Using empty office space to support employee wellbeing can be a great way to create a working environment that feels good to work in. Not only that, it can also help create a favourable impression to clients, customers and potential new employees. By creating a focus on employee wellbeing, you may also find that remote and hybrid workers are more likely to return to the office. This can take many forms, and we’ve written on the topic before, but in the interests of empty office space, it could mean adding a gym or exercise area. Physical activity in the workplace has been linked to greater productivity, reduced cases of presenteeism and revenue increases. 

Exercise also helps boost blood flow to the brain, making it easier to focus and facilitate creative thinking and can be a great stress buster. It’s also a great opportunity to tie in wellbeing with another pillar of the company’s mission or ethos. 

Energym installs electricity-generating indoor bikes into empty office spaces. Companies can choose one bike or several and generate clean power using portable battery units on the bike like the RE:GEN for the home. Or there are eco-pods which are a sustainable and self-contained area built inside open office space where employees exercise and their clean energy gets set to a centralised battery unit which helps power the office. 

We also put attach our energy-generating indoor bikes to desks so employees can power office equipment with the clean electricity capturing during their workout. This no only supports employee wellbeing but helps reduce energy bills and makes a business more sustainable. 

Move The Office Around

Research now suggests that the open-plan method of working (popularised in the last couple of decades) isn’t actually that idea and can make people less productive. Spacing out desks or creating loose barriers between different departments or sections of the office can help even if you’ve traditionally had a more open-plan approach. You can also create a dedicated communal area or meeting space so that different departments or roles can communicate and collaborate at key times. 

Creating a more dynamic approach to an office layout means that there’s more room for manoeuvre when there’s a specific requirement for the space. For example, a social common area can also become a meeting space or somewhere to take social media photographs. 

Companies can also add a hot-desking area for when remote and hybrid employees come into the office. Creating a flexible desk system means employees always have somewhere to work when they come into the office without empty desks cluttering up the space the rest of the time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things, including attitudes to work. Businesses can still thrive even when a portion of their workforce continues working from home. The idea of the office as a central hub is becoming more outdated but we shouldn’t write off office work entirely. Businesses can adapt their empty to make them more welcoming for employees and more reflective of modern working practices. And you never know, it may also tempt reluctant employees back into the office. 

In situations when reusing office space isn’t viable, it’s worth talking to your landlord to see if they can offer a solution or alternative. 

If you're interested in adding electricity-generating indoor bikes to your office for employee wellbeing and sustainability, you can find out more information on our website. 


Energym desk set-up against green office wall 



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New Office Space

Great post! Thank you for sharing this kind of post.

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