Thursday 11 March 2021 2:23 pm

WPP commits to London headquarters despite plans to slash office space

Advertising giant WPP today committed to its London headquarters despite wider plans to slash office space amid a shift to home working.

The media group, which owns ad agencies such as Ogilvy, Grey and Group M, has said it will look to reduce its office footprint by a fifth in the coming years.

Read more: WPP resumes £620m share buyback as it eyes return to growth

Chief executive Mark Read today said the ultimate reduction could even be higher than that, but doubled down on the company’s three main London sites — dubbed campuses — along the South Bank.

“By gradually consolidating our people into our campuses, we’re able to produce more efficient workplaces with better facilities for our people to give them a reason to come into the office,” Read told City A.M.

In addition to its main base in the Sea Containers building, the firm also has offices in Rose Court and the former Financial Times headquarters next to Southwark Bridge.

Read said that while the rise in remote working during the pandemic would mean employees were unlikely to come in five days a week, the firm’s offices would remain an important part of the business.

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He added that the facilities at the campuses, which house staff from a range of the holding group’s different agencies, were also key for encouraging employees to come in.

“People needed a reason to work from home in the past; in the future they’re going to need a reason to come into the office,” he said.

WPP, which employs just under 100,000 people worldwide, is also hoping to cut costs by reducing its office space after a sharp slump in trading due to the pandemic.

Read said the firm had roughly 1,600 property leases two years ago, with around 40 buildings in London alone. Over the coming years all staff will be consolidated into the three main campuses in the capital.

Globally, roughly a third of WPP’s employees are housed in campus sites in locations including New York, Paris, Hong Kong and Mumbai. 

Read more: WPP buys Brazilian software engineering firm DTI Digital

Chief financial officer John Rogers said the “vast majority” of the workforce would be moved into campuses in the next three to four years.

It comes after WPP this morning posted an eight per cent decline in revenue and a pre-tax loss of £2.8bn in 2020 as the wider economic downturn took its toll.

But the holding group resumed its £620m share buyback and dividend as it forecast a return to growth in the second quarter.