Office Market Trends for 2024 – Insights from Calibro Managing Director, Ronnie Crawford
It seems 2023 has been the year of figuring out what works best for companies and their teams. At least for the most part.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, and one thing we have encouraged our clients to do, is to take a consultative, data driven approach, seeking input from employees in relation to ways of working and the working environment.
The office is unlikely to be the same again. It’s evolving and moving towards an environment of agility and collaboration, and needs to be an attractive proposition to bring workers away from their makeshift home studies, and back into the office. This shift reflects changing priorities as companies embed hybrid work options and prioritise employee wellbeing. The office now serves as a hub for collaboration, innovation and socialisation, and a platform to foster company culture and convey a company’s mission, vision, and values.
Here’s a few key trends I’m seeing and how they will impact the office in 2024.
The Compromise of the Hybrid Working Model
Many leaders I’ve spoken to throughout the year recognise the benefits of remote working. That’s clear. But many are now realising some of the negative implications the lack of in-person collaboration has been having on their culture, as well as their efforts to retain talent. We’re seeing global brands across many sectors roll out mandated office returns for at least part of the working week, in an attempt to increase face-to-face contact and collaboration among teams, foster workplace culture and facilitate training and development opportunities, particularly for younger recruits. I anticipate this approach will continue. By my reckoning the hybrid model boosts employee engagement and productivity and can strike a lovely balance with business culture.
We’re seeing increasing demand for flexibility in spaces and more businesses introducing features such as focus pods, meeting docks and informal meeting settings to accommodate the different working styles of individuals. We’re also seeing greater emphasis on introducing breakout spaces that can facilitate a multitude of requirements such as wider team meetings, townhall discussions, in-person training and even hosting events.
A rightsizing of sorts is also occurring. Many businesses are taking the opportunity to reassess their space to determine if their floor plate meets or is surplus to their needs. Many are looking to restructure the layout of their workplace and move to a more agile design, assessing desk ratios, with some operating on as low as 1:0.6 ratio – six desks for every ten employees.
A Grade Space
As the world moves towards a sustainable future, we will continue to see increasing demand for Grade A quality office space that meets the latest environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) standards and helps businesses achieve sustainability targets and accreditations such as LEED, BREEAM and SKA Ratings.
Landlords, and developers in particular, face the challenge of meeting the demand for this type of stock in prime locations with a strong amenity offering. I anticipate challenges will appear in the supply side for this type of space due to the lack of new development projects with ongoing inflationary issues making projects unviable with current rental returns. There has also been discussion around what to do with older stock that has a lower EPC rating and, if legislation currently in place in England and Wales was to be implemented in Northern Ireland / Ireland, many would not meet the current requirement of grade ‘E’ or higher to be leased or renewed. Landlords must decide whether to invest in retrofitting this stock to bring it up to standard or look at repurposing it for another use such as education, accommodation or even hospitality.
Sustainable Design Choices
Alongside the increased demand for sustainable spaces comes the drive to make more sustainable choices during the design and fitout process. On the technical side, there are considerations around elements such as using renewable energy sources for example; solar, energy efficient ventilation systems, installing LED lighting, allowing for natural light to enter the space, improving insulation and monitoring heating via smart technology to reduce carbon emissions.
Design-wise, we’re seeing greater demand for recycled materials and products, and those that can be recycled later in life.
More Inclusive Workplaces
For many businesses we’ve spoken to and worked with in 2023 , there’s been a greater emphasis on employee wellbeing and creating workplaces that cater to the changing needs of today’s workforce from a Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) perspective. Companies are beginning to recognise the role they have to play in fostering employee wellbeing and the importance of creating a sense of belonging for all team members. The introduction of wellness rooms and quiet spaces has been a key trend here, alongside making workplaces more welcoming for those with neurodiverse conditions. This area is only going to become more importance in the coming years.
2023 was a transformative year for the workplace, emphasing the importance of an insight-driven, people-first approach in a post-pandemic world. Prioritising in-person collaboration, flexible workspaces, sustainability, and a commitment to inclusivity and employee wellbeing will be pivotal trends in 2024.