Could 2021 be the time for charities to scale down their central London Head Offices?

It will likely come as no surprise that a number of the UK’s biggest charities operate out of offices in Central London. Some offer a vital service from the same location, so in some cases such as rehoming centres, it totally makes sense. But for those charities who have no physical services running from their London Head Office location; Could 2021 be the time for charities to consider scaling down their central London Head Offices?

Hundreds of charities including Macmillan, Cancer Research, NSPCC, Water Aid all have offices in central London. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Think of a national charity and see where their head office is located. The chances are the majority will be in Central London.

Costs Office Rentals In London

According to Statista, their research found that the average cost of office space in London is the highest in Europe. With average central London office spaces reaching £112.50 per square foot in the West End. While further out to the South East of England, for the same period (Q1 2020) the average cost per square foot was £35.25 ( Avison Young, 2020). While in Leeds for the same period the average cost was £31 per sq ft. (Savills, 2020).

Could Charities be saving money by reducing down to smaller London offices, moving out of London or even removing a physical office all together. In London alone there are hundreds of co-working spaces, and offices you can hire just as you need them. For an hour, a day, a week or other short term period.

Why do Charities have offices in London?

There is a multitude of reasons for Charities having their main office in London. For some, it’s down to their history or legacy, for others is could be down to its central to where they operate, for some the building/office has been donated or gifted to them, or potentially owned by a partner. However, when asked, some have stated they are in London to have access to the diverse skillset of people that they require.

Charities need to be in London to access the London Talent Pool

Although this is certainly true of the past, I think 2020 has proven that Charities don’t need big offices in London to make use of the London Talent Pool.

2020 thrust the UK and world into a situation where people were forced to reduce physical contact. Offices and workplaces were required to close or dramatically shift their working behavior with practically no warning.

Although this obviously came with many problems, by and large, the vast majority of charities have continued to operate in some manner. Be this with reduced teams and offering reduced services, many have taken to working remotely. This in turn has grown confidence in the sector that teams can still work effectively even when they are not in the same location.

The development of new software and better connections has made working remotely so accessible to people of all abilities. Just a decade or so ago video conferencing was only done by big businesses, at big cost and with poor results. If the pandemic had happened in 2000 it would have been hugely different, and likely most charities wouldn’t have been able to operate.

Could 2021 be the time for charities to scale down their central London Head Offices?

What about physical meetings, training, and morale?

On occasion, there are going to be circumstances that require a physical meeting. However, there are hundreds of co-working spaces, meeting rooms, and office spaces all over London that you can hire by the hour. If a charity still needs space for meetings and some hotdesking, reducing the size of a London office could still bring massive savings. Cutting down from 3 office floors to 1 would save hundreds of thousands of pounds each year.

In the last three years I have started two different jobs remotely, completed all my training and induction remotely and never met a number of the teams I have been working with in person.

In 2019 I started working for a company in San Diego. I did all my training remotely. The first time I met a colleague in person was after a month, and we met in a coffee shop in Geneva Airport just before going to see a customer together. The first time I traveled to the office in San Diego was after three months in the role.

From my experience, learning a job remotely is a lot harder than it is going into an office. But, it is totally doable, and I think 2020 has proved that.

Could 2021 be the time for charities to scale down their central London Head Offices?

So, with charities now having all this experience of working remotely under their belt… Could 2021 be the time for charities to scale down their central London Head Offices?

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