Companies are likely to stick with their traditional city centre offices once the coronavirus pandemic passes, according to the team at real estate investment house Mayfair Capital – even if staff spend less time in them.

Tom Duncan, Mayfair Capital’s senior research analyst, said the home-working necessitated by the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown has shown that companies can “maintain or improve output” without staff being in an office. But although the role of the office is changing, its significance is not, he added.

“The purpose of the office has changed from merely being a place to work towards being a place to collaborate, to meet and to learn,” Duncan said during a Mayfair Capital webinar.

“It is for that reason that we believe offices that have evolved their roles will remain much needed. A widespread shift towards more flexible working practices is likely after the pandemic, but working from home will not become the new normal. Employee surveys show that people still want to be based in the office at least part of the time, and it’s the freedom of choice over where and when they work that they value the most.”

In five years, Duncan said, “a typical office worker may spend two days a week working from home and three days a week in the office, with their location dependent on their tasks”.

That will drive demand for offices in accessible city centres, he added. “City centres offer a holistic mix of employment, retail and leisure uses, and clusters of clients, industry colleagues and friends. They will thus be more appealing for most workers compared to suburban office markets even if they involve a longer commute.”

Other investors have suggested demand could take a different turn. The team at McKay Securities, for example, said recently that regional office markets in the South East stand to benefit “if occupiers decide to decentralise in order to reduce exposure to congested public transport”.

Mayfair Capital’s Duncan, however, is sceptical: “We may see some large corporates adopt a decentralised model, with a city centre head office supported by a number of suburban hubs, but by and large city centres will see the strongest demand.”