In part 2 of a 4-part blog series, Ruth McCarthy, Partner and Head of Real Estate focuses on how technology is influencing the workplace and thus how landlords and developers adapt their approach to meet these demands.
It’s a fast-changing world out there- how we live, work and play- it’s all change. Lines between our lives at home/work/play are blurred more than ever and we’re seeing a younger generation of managers and a new breed of companies embracing agile working and a new generation of workers who expect flexible working.
To meet the ever-changing demands of workers/occupiers, landlords and developers are having to look closely at office space and focus on key things like connectivity and flexibility.
Nothing has changed the way we live and work as much as the internet. A wireless connection has become as vital a utility as water and electricity. Poor connectivity depresses productivity – the impact on the bottom line is tangible and as staff account for a significant proportion of a typical businesses operating costs, this means that productivity becomes an issue for landlords, not just occupiers.
When bringing forward office buildings, developers and landlords must engage with telecommunications providers at an early appraisal or design stage. Wireless networks must be built into the fabric of new buildings rather than being added as an afterthought or given consideration at too late a stage (most developers won’t consider their wireless connection until the occupiers are almost ready to move in). With the growth of flexible and remote working, connectivity will be integral to the way people do their jobs and will also form an important part of how you look after your staff.
The UK flexible workspace sector is booming and we’re seeing flexible workspace and co-working providers opening centres in regional towns and cities. Why is this? There are 2 key drivers:
- Occupier Demand: there is a demand in the marketplace from occupiers- from start-ups to corporate office occupiers for flexible workspace focused on shared economy concepts.
- Corporate Strategy: the larger landlords are looking to diversify their portfolios and grow their occupier services and engage with companies across the spectrum.
In Manchester (as with other regional cities) we have seen a rise in co-working (businesses working together in one space). Whilst this may not suit everyone, for those entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs who are keen to share costs, ideas, contacts and knowledge, it can work well. For landlords too, there are advantages; they are better able to understand their tenants needs and can provide different workspaces to accommodate the growth and allow retention of that occupier for longer.
Occupiers are looked after and referred to as ‘residents’ and in some co-working spaces there are even ‘help yourself’ beer fridges – now that’s one reason to come to work!
It’s all about flexibility and empowering people and letting them decide how they want to work. With the use of bright colours, funky furniture, breakout areas and even comfy sofas to take a nap it’s all about empowerment and creating an environment where people can be creative and not afraid to make mistakes- the current thinking is the that office environment needs to make people feel ‘great’..
A lot of ideas are coming from the US (Silicon Valley) and as competition grows in the sector, the offering from flexible workspace providers will extend to other services for their tenants (or ‘residents’). Some developers are looking at there being more focus on ‘wellness’ and on mental health- putting in gyms and offering yoga classes. This does however come at a cost and, to keep costs down there is a move towards ‘community managed’ spaces/areas- the developer or landlord creates a space and leaves it to the residents to manage.
It’s a fast-changing world out there and landlords and developers must stay ahead of the game or risk getting left behind as occupiers, customers and residents make use of new technologies to question the quality of their environment. A ‘basic’ office environment just won’t cut the mustard…
Now who’s for another beer or was that a yoga class??!!
In Part 3, we will look more closely at the Investment & PRS market and how PropTech is having an impact on this growing sector.
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The information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by berg or any of its partners or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.