- As flexible space supply continues to grow, traditional landlords are taking note.
- To recover and thrive post-pandemic, landlords must embrace some the factors that have made flexible workspace so successful.
- technologywithin’s Richard Morris discusses why a combination of workplace flexibility, technology, and experience is crucial going forward.
This article was written by Richard Morris, Director at technologywithin.
It is not surprising that landlords are increasingly taking note of the potential of the UK flexible workspace sector, with supply continuing to grow by 4% in 2020 despite repeated national lockdowns.
As the easing of restrictions begins, businesses have seen – and are beginning to seize – an opportunity to offer greater flexibility to their teams. This enables them to cut down on rent commitments compared to traditional HQs, and continue to provide access to high-quality office space.
In the meantime, traditional property owners have been faced with growing vacancies, declining advertised rents and the rising threat of ‘grey space’ as businesses downsize and opt to sub-let their offices.
Suggested Reading: Understanding Grey Space and Why There’s So Much Of It
No longer can traditional landlords simply offer a shell within which businesses build out their own space. To compete in this ‘new normal’, landlords must emulate and embrace some the factors that have made flexible workspace so successful.
Technology, technology, technology
In the wake of the pandemic, the age-old mantra of ‘location, location, location’ has become wholly out-dated. After all, lockdown has empowered many people for the first time to work remotely on a regular basis – severing a long-held belief in our dependence on the office.
Still, few people want to leave the office behind for good.
In fact, moving forward 55% of people would like to split their time between home and the workplace, while 19% would choose to return every day. Nonetheless, this widespread adoption of hybrid working will undoubtedly change businesses’ needs.
Flex operators with a nation-wide presence are well placed to facilitate this, offering large corporations access to all of their centres as part of a ‘hub and spoke’ model.
Standard Chartered, Japanese telecommunications group Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, and even the Civil Service are just some of the latest organisations to say they will take advantage of this proposition.
With people able to access office space closer to home and continue to connect with wider colleagues digitally, the importance of a central office location is diminished. Instead, the technology capabilities of that building become far more significant. After all, how can a disparate workforce be expected to collaborate effectively without good digital infrastructure?
Go smart to gain tenants
For both flexible workspace operators and traditional landlords, the importance of technology is undeniable. In fact, even prior to the pandemic, estimates suggested that 82% of digitally unconnected spaces could become obsolete in the near future, while well-connected buildings rated by WiredScore were able to charge a ‘digital premium’ of as much as 10% on office space in London.
Clearly, the appeal of technology for tenants is not new, but the flexible workspace sector has been one of the first to fully embrace its potential – offering a suite of technology services from integrated video conferencing in meeting rooms, to desk booking systems, smart building tech and workspace management software.
In this new age of working, commercial landlords should think seriously about emulating such an approach. Post-lockdown, the technology capabilities of a building will by more highly prized than ever before by the end-user. So, in an ever more saturated market, it can be a crucial point of differentiation for both landlords and operators.
Creating people-centric spaces
With up to 75% of workers thought to have suffered from burnout during lockdown, it’s no surprise that worker wellbeing is a now first priority for businesses.
Traditional landlords can again learn important lessons from flexible workspace in how to facilitate this. Indeed, by incorporating breakout spaces and dedicated communal areas into their floor plans, landlords can lay a far better foundation for people-centric approaches that drive good company culture.
Similarly, technology systems including smart ventilation, motion sensors and lighting can help to optimise the working environment for better comfort, productivity and health – all crucial priorities for businesses in their recovery from the pandemic.
Convenience is king
At the heart of flexible workspace is the promise of space-as-a-service, offering move-in ready, well-connected space with fit-out to suit your budget and expectations. With businesses now re-assessing their office footprint and commitment to traditional office space, it is an approach that warrants consideration even by traditional office landlords.
While many people have faced difficulties working remotely – including lost collaboration, increased distractions and worsening mental wellbeing – the office still has to offer more than our homes in order to entice people back.
In fact, one of the benefits for landlords of offering flexible workspace within their buildings is that it can help to attract tenants to adjoining traditional lease space. For instance, a tenant may take a contract knowing that, should they need to expand, they have the option of flexing into additional space that is already kitted out to meet their needs.
Nonetheless, with more than 90% of the market still operating on a conventional leasehold model, landlords and operators must do all they can to stand out, for instance by offering a range of integrated services under one roof – from flexible workspace and traditional offices to hair salons, GP surgeries, hotel rooms and restaurants.
After all, as the growth of flexible workspace has shown, it isn’t just the building but what you offer inside that counts.
A flexible future
From robust technology infrastructure, enticing fit-out and added amenities, flexible workspace has led the way in creating attractive office space that can draw people back and, crucially, meet their evolving needs following the unprecedented events of the last 14 months.
By embracing the benefits of flexible workspace, landlords can not only future-proof their assets, but also best stand out at this crucial moment when lockdown is easing and recovery begins.
Richard Morris is the Director at technologywithin, a UK-based supplier of managed connectivity solutions including Wi-Fi, superfast internet and communications services for flexible workspaces.