New Occupier Profiles Are Driving Flexible Workspace Demand In Asia

New research by Colliers examines investment strategies for CRE owners in Asia.
  • New research by Colliers examines how changes in tenant profiles are influencing new investment strategies for CRE owners in Asia.
  • The proportion of total office stock represented by flexible workspace is lower in London than in many Asian emerging cities.
  • Colliers identified three things that new occupiers value the most – flexibility, efficiency of space, and workplace experience – which is leading to greater adoption of agile and activity-based working methods.

A recent report by Colliers International looks at how changes in tenant profiles are affecting investment strategies for property owners in Asia. The report, titled “Changing Dynamics: Implications of New Occupier Profiles for Property Owners”, argues that the flexible workspace and TMT are now the key drivers of real estate demand across Asia.

“By our estimate, TMT groups now occupy 18% of total prime office space across Asian CBDs, and flexible workspaces a further 5%.” Colliers found that flexible workspaces account for 15% and 5% of Grade A office space in areas of Bangalore and Singapore, a significant percentage when compared to London (5%) and most large US cities (2%).

“The proportion of total office stock represented by flexible workspace is lower in London than in many Asian emerging cities, and no greater than in Asian developed cities like Singapore and Shanghai.”

Suggested Reading: “A Look into Asia’s Action-Packed Flexible Workspace Market

It’s not just Grade A office space that’s experiencing this shift. The proportion of space taken up by flexible workspace would be higher if Grade B space were included. According to Colliers, “flexible workspaces have proven a valuable tool for revitalising Grade B office buildings in Hong Kong among other markets.”

The pace of growth flexible workspaces have experienced in Asia is likely to slow down, however it will not go into reverse. Those who will experience increased growth are operators that focus on niche markets and who offer a hospitality-driven experience.

Implications for Building and Space Design

“In addition to changing occupier profiles, patterns of workplace organisation and design are evolving. Occupiers in general increasingly value flexibility, efficiency of space use and ambient experience.”

Since occupier profiles are changing, so are their needs. The report found that workspaces are increasingly laid out on open-plan activity-based or agile working principles. This is a response to new occupier demands, including talent attraction and retention and increased flexibility.

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Colliers identified three things that new occupiers value the most:

  • Flexibility in terms of location, schedule, and design.
  • Efficiency of space use, meaning companies are no longer hoping for their offices to welcome all staff at all times.
  • Experience, as in creating a unique workplace environment that makes people want to go there. An interesting finding was that “wellness rooms and F&B facilities are usually of little use unless firms actively encourage their staff to use them.”

The above has lead to two primarily new workplace layouts: activity-based working and agile working.

Suggested Reading: “The How, What, and Why of Activity-Based Working

The implications of new occupiers aren’t restricted to the space they let out. Quite the contrary, they’re looking for buildings that offer specific features that can enhance the overall work experience:

  • Ease of access to experience and entertainment (cafes, event facilities, or nearby malls).
  • Dual or multiple entrances. For flexible workspaces this is of particular importance if they have corporate clients that want to have their own branded entrance to the space. This is also important if the building is home to tenants that require high security methods.
  • Less space dedicated to temperature-controlled IT areas; these areas could be transformed into entertainment or social areas.
  • Horizontal plenum spaces for relaxation and divisions in open spaces to reduce noise.

Implications for Property Owners and Developers

Colliers recommends that landlords and developers reserve certain floors of their buildings for flexible workspace use. These can be managed by them directly or by a third-party operator. Interestingly, Colliers believes that “traditional landlords are in a strong position to challenge flexible workspace operators on their own turf.”

Suggested Reading: “Should Property Owners Delve into Operating a Coworking Space

In order to do so, however, property owners need to be willing to accept shorter lease lengths, even from traditional tenants; invest more in space fit-out and personalization; and accept longer rent-free periods while this new type of occupier builds up their operation.

Though doing this might translate to increased cost of project development, the report suggests that it’s an investment worth making.

“In a world where the fastest-growing occupier sectors feature a high proportion of staff working in flexible locations with flexible hours, it is vital to create an environment which makes them want to stay.”

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