British Airways is working with a specialist property company to assess the possibility of selling its Waterside head office on the outskirts of Heathrow Airport in West London. The sprawling 114,000 square metre Neils Torp-designed HQ is made up of 14 buildings built along a 175-metre long indoor street where 4,000 staffers would normally socialise and hold informal meetings.
The site has been largely abandoned since March 2020 when the pandemic struck and, like many companies, British Airways ordered office-based staff to work from home. In an internal memo, the airline said it was surprised at how well staffers had adapted to the ‘new normal’.
Stuart Kennedy, BA’s director of people told staffers that in a post-pandemic world many employees might want to reduce the number of days they travel to the office.
British Airways paid £200m for the land and construction of Waterside which was completed in 1998. The site was, however, already earmarked for bulldozing under Heathrow Airport’s controversial plans to build a third runway right through the area that Waterside currently occupies.
“Many of us are based at Waterside and it’s not clear if such a large office will play a part in our future,” Kennedy wrote in an employee email.
“We’ll want to consider what the ideal office layout for the future will be. Perhaps it’s less fixed desks and more casual meeting areas, and we need to consider colleague wellbeing, too,” the email continued.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the airline said that it was assessing “whether we still have the need for such a large headquarters building” saying that the pandemic had “accelerated our approach to offering more agile and flexible ways of working”.
BA chief executive Sean Doyle has, however, has warned of Zoom fatigue and how the negative aspects of home working might lead to a bounce-back for business travel.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.