BLOG: How working from home could accelerate youthful and residential city centres

The push towards working from home during the pandemic could end up helping to make Birmingham city centre a more residential, younger and exciting reality. Mike Olley, general manager of Westside BID, reports.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on our lives.

Part of that has placed many of us as ‘working from home’, and many managers are coming to terms with the fact that people are often more efficient in the comfort of their own homes.

Simplistic management tools allow for greater supervision. And for many, working from home is a better option that works. Not for all, but for many.

Indeed, one in five of us could well largely disappear from the office and therefore the area the office operates from. Yet will this have a negative impact on our city and local centres?

I would argue not. Birmingham has a current housing crisis and an immediate demand for at least 90,000 homes. Largely for our young.

We also have a burgeoning and unmet student accommodation demand. The market will step in and supply both these needs.

Much of it will be in Westside, building on the youthful nature the area has offered for many years now. This will also be driven by the adjustments in the property market resulting from a largely generational shift to homeworking.

As a good percentage of the more seasoned of the work force change to home working, this will leave space to be filled by the new generation.

Their city centre accommodation will be practical with little emphasis on space. The spatial needs of the coming generation will be fulfilled by different work and socialising environments. Coffee lounges and spacious unconventional office accommodation will supplement and complete their needs.

I see the swish new tram that’s arriving very soon all the way to Five Ways as presenting a dynamic shift in the feel of the area.

Wider pavements will present fresh opportunities for our businesses. The feel of the area will become more bohemian. The wave of residential skyscrapers that are emerging and planned will add to the spectacular skyline and feel.

Add this to the changing nature of office environments, which will adjust to offer an exciting revolutionary nature. The fitting out of the massive new WeWork office space adjacent to NatWest in Brindleyplace is a fine example of the way life will change.

Whilst we may fear change, we know from our experience of it that things only ever get better.

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