Market Insights – The Future Workplace By Aaron Patton

What has changed in recent years in the office industry?

ESG (Economic, Social, Governmental) is the word of the moment! Certain companies are starting to implement standards for the minimum ESG credentials that they’ll accept for spaces they’re looking to take and the onus and challenge will be on landlords and property developers to supply the stock to suit. This is why demand is growing for high quality office space that help tenants work towards their sustainability goals. However, with many investors likely to sit on their hands whilst inflation renders many projects unviable, it remains to be seen how this may leave supply of quality Grade A space in the coming years and challenges could then appear for the occupiers should demand continue

Alongside this, there has also been an increased appetite to retrofit or refurbish existing spaces instead of constructing new office buildings. Despite the challenges that can come with major refurbishments, such as potential longer project durations, higher preliminary costs due to increased management requirements, and higher risks, these challenges are being offset more now by the desire to reduce the carbon emissions associated with new build projects.

The same applies on a smaller scale when it comes to companies looking at making amends to their office layout or changing their furniture – the common theme is looking at what materials or products can be re-purposed or re-used in any changes that companies do implement.

Has the ‘Death of the office’ materialised?

Certainly not, the mood is relatively positive, many businesses are commenting that they have been noticing a consistent uptake in office usage since they’ve re-opened the office over the past 6 months. It is also clear that occupier demand is still present and is relatively buoyant. The viewings and interest in property are very much alive. Although it may be taking longer for companies to formalise their plans and make decisions due to uncertainty, the fact that the interest is still there indicates that reports that the office is dead have turned out very much false and this interest should ultimately turn into more deals.

There is no doubt that people will continue to look for flexibility in their working arrangements however the requirement for the office remains as important or more important than ever as a hub for social interaction, collaboration, and innovation, and ultimately attract and retain top talent.

What are staff looking for now from the office?

People have worked from home for the past couple of years, new working habits have been formed and it is now common knowledge that it can work! Moreover, habits take weeks to form – in the main, people have been developing new habits for over two years with working from home, these habits won’t be broken overnight (and they probably never will be!). They have more time in the day without the commute into the office and more flexibility, therefore, why would they come into the office if there was no reason to do so?

However, looking at it from the employer side, they need people in the office for numerous reasons – as mentioned in the previous question – but ultimately for the culture of the business in view of remaining relevant! Therefore, more has to be done to encourage employees back to the office and to make it worthwhile for people to make the commute. The type of amenities on offer in the office or in the surrounding area, events that are going on in the office, or even as simple as what colleagues might be in the office on a certain day are all factors that will impact whether staff will feel it’s worthwhile coming into the office or not, or whether they feel they’ve missed out if they haven’t come in! Providing various working areas for productively completing various tasks is vital for encouraging people back into the office.

How has this changed the design process and journey?

What we’re seeing and have always tried to stress in our process is that a lot more thought and research is going in in a consultative way to the design process prior to committing to space and indeed before fitout works commence. The importance of workspace consultancy and truly understanding the needs and wants of the people who’ll be using the space is imperative to getting the location, size of space, and ultimately design and fitout of the space right. This is why it’s actually so important to be engaging with a workspace partner at the early stages in the process to give the confidence that what you’re committing to is the right move for your business.

Quality over quantity of space is now more critical than ever and incorporating elements of the comfort of the home into the design (or ‘resimercialising’), as well as creating more flexible and adaptable spaces are now at the forefront, while ensuring sustainable choices along the way.

Looking ahead – what do the next few years look like for the office?

We’ll probably hear these three words a bit more – flexibility, adaptability, and change! So much has changed in the last few years, behaviours and priorities have changed and I don’t think anyone in the industry or in any business would say they have all the answers! There certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to the office, which makes it so fun! Our passion is truly drilling deep down and understanding how each business works and listening to the requirements of your team.

The majority of businesses are still on the journey of rolling out their hybrid working arrangements and trying to bottom out what this might mean for their real estate portfolio. Therefore, there is a need to remain flexible, watch the trends and keep listening to what your people have to say when looking at the design of offices of the future as well as putting sustainability at the forefront.

Ultimately, a more consultative, coordinated, thought-through approach prior to committing to any project is what we’re seeing when working with clients and is most definitely what we’d be recommending in today’s market.


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