By Daniel Hunter

Demand for fixed office space in the UK, an industry worth £2 billion a year to the economy, will die out within 20 years, an expert has predicted.

Tim Meredith, a unified communications expert at Daisy Group, says the growth of cloud-based services and mobile devices mean that people no longer need a permanent desk and will increasingly work from home or utilise pay-as-you-use alternatives.

He explained: “The business world has become extremely fast-paced and organisations need to be able to react quickly to survive. Office space, on the other hand, requires long-term financial commitment and maximum occupancy, otherwise it becomes a huge financial drain.

“Floor space is one of the biggest outgoings for the majority of businesses and yet it is largely becoming an unnecessary expense. The nine-to-five shift is dying as more businesses allow their employees to work flexibly, which means workers no longer need to be desk-bound and there is less need for fixed office space.

“The number of UK home workers has increased by 45% since the start of the millennium, and I anticipate this trend to continue. By 2035, businesses will be following the lead of freelancers and start-ups by renting fully-equipped office space or portable workstations as and when they need them. Both options are increasingly attractive because they cut real estate costs, office overheads and travel expenses."

The rollout of superfast broadband and 4G connectivity across the UK is also helping facilitate the move away from the office. Increasingly, workers are able to access software and applications that were traditionally only available at the office, from their homes, via VPNs and the cloud.

Alongside the number of UK people working from home reaching more than 4 million, technical ‘mobile device management’ solutions have been developed to enable organisations to monitor their remote workers’ activity.

Mr Meredith added: “Whilst the office may disappear, communication and physical interaction with colleagues in close proximity will still be necessary. Organisations must ensure that staff attend regular meetings with their peers and always have the opportunity to use office facilities if needed — which is where rented or shared office spaces become viable options.”