The firm has welcomed a quarter of staff back to its Marsden Street office in Manchester today, reporting a spike in client inquiries over the last 10 days and following a raft of recent office reopenings, including by CBRE, Savills and JLL.
David Porter, head of Knight Frank’s Manchester office, said the volume of work had been maintained throughout 11 weeks of home working“thanks to the adaptability of colleagues and staff”.
He added: “In coming back into the office, the most important thing has been to ensure that safety measures are in place for a return and people feel comfortable with the new arrangements.
“It has been a huge learning curve out of which have come some great initiatives and new working practices, many of which will stay, such as a dedicated Knight Frank YouTube channel hosting video tours of commercial and industrial premises.”
Other property agencies across the North West have begun a phased return to the workplace, including CBRE and JLL, as the Government announced a phased lifting of national lockdown restrictions at the end of last month. Whitehall’s official guidance is to continue working from home if possible, and to avoid using public transport.
Today marks the start of JLL’s third week back in the Manchester office. JLL is using a two-team rotation system whereby 20% of staff are in the office at any one time.
The consultancy moved from its former premises at Piccadilly One just before lockdown so the return to the workplace sees them take residence for the first time at the Landmark in St Peter’s Square.
A statement from JLL said: “The health and wellbeing of our colleagues remains our top priority and we have worked hard to prepare for a safe and phased re-occupation of our UK offices.
“The re-entry policies and procedures we have put in place are aligned with current government advice and, in this initial phase, focus on supporting critical workers who are unable to work from home.”
Stephen Hogg, head of the North West and of residential for UK regions, said he was enjoying being back but admitted he had concerns over the North West’s rising ‘R rate’.
Meanwhile, CBRE began the process of returning to the workplace by reopening its Manchester and Liverpool offices to 25% of staff on 1 June.
John Ogden, managing director of CBRE’s northern business, said last week: “We are following CBRE’s internal guidelines for office reopening, which include complying with local government requirements, adapting space to ensure social distancing, adhering to cleaning and hygiene supply protocols and posting instructional signage.
“The success of this transitional phase is entirely down to the strength of our teams, which continue to impress with their adaptability and resilience, empathy and understanding for colleagues and contemporaries.”
By way of safety measures, JLL has implemented one-way systems in the office and is ensuring that touch points, such as coffee machines and door handles, are cleaned every 20 minutes. Employees are also being encouraged to avoid public transport where possible.
The increase in agents returning to work has coincided with a reported market upturn. Richard Lace, director at OBI, wrote in a comment piece for Place North West last week: “Enquiry levels have begun to increase, and we have been back in Manchester regularly meeting with occupiers wanting to undertake viewings and inspections of suites, all while observing the Government guidelines around social distancing.”
OBI, and other agencies, have been conducting viewings of client real estate in recent weeks, even before offices were open to staff.
However, not all real estate agencies are encouraging a return to the workplace. Avison Young has previously said it has permitted all of its employees nationwide to work from home for the rest of 2020 if they so wish.