Feature: How Landlords Can Meet Businesses’ Workspace Demands
By Wybo Wijnbergen, Co-founder and CEO, infinitSpace
What sort of workspace will inspire people to brave the commute and embrace the opportunities that can only truly be realised through face-to-face collaboration?
Across the UK, and indeed globally, landlords and business leaders alike are grappling with this hugely important question. But the onus is on the former – the commercial landlords – to respond first, making the necessary changes to their office buildings to ensure they have a proposition that will appeal to businesses and their employees.
This is no easy task. After all, what can be considered an enticing proposition is notably different today than it was two years ago, when the first Covid-induced lockdowns were being introduced.
Indeed, recent research from infinitSpace underlines this point. In December 2021, we commissioned an independent study among 200 UK office landlords, with 64% telling us that they have witnessed a notable shift in tenants’ demands since the onset of the pandemic. A similar number (62%) admitted that they were struggling to attract prospective tenants to fill “traditional office spaces”.
The message is clear: traditional offices that offer desks, chairs and ethernet cables will not suffice for most businesses today.
What, then, does matter?
Creating the exceptional
A recent study found that the majority (67%) of UK office workers are reluctant to return to the office post-Covid. Most (78%) employees would like a workspace within ten minutes of their home, while 93% want to see improvements to their organisation’s workplace.
As stated, businesses are actively seeking out exceptional workspaces – ones that will lure employees out of the comforts and routines of remote working, giving them a real purpose and desire to be in an “office” once again.
In many cases, flexible workspaces are the answer. infinitSpace’s aforementioned research found that, at present, UK office landlords are dedicating an average of 33% of their office portfolios to flexible workspace. By the end of 2022, this is predicted to increase to 37%. By 2026, it will hit 44%.
Yet flexible workspaces, having become far more popular and prevalent in recent years, come in many shapes and sizes. As such, “I’ll convert traditional offices into flexible workspaces” is not an adequate strategy – the focus is on the detail.
What tenants want
From the facilities and functionality through to the design and support services, there are many elements that go into creating an exceptional flexible workspace. So, it is not surprising that many landlords might find the prospect daunting.
To that end, infinitSpace’s research delved further into this topic, quizzing landlords on the features that they have found to be the most important in attracting tenants in the current climate.
Below is a breakdown of the findings, providing a useful guide for landlords considering what to prioritise when creating a new workspace.
- Meeting rooms (60% of landlords said this feature is ‘very important’ or ‘somewhat important’ in attracting tenants to a workspace)
- Breakout areas and collaboration spaces (59%)
- Outdoor space, such as a garden, terrace or balcony (58%)
- In-house food or café (56%)
- Networking events (54%)
- Barista coffee (54%)
- A workspace app (53%)
- Flexible fit-out & furniture (53%)
- Hotdesking (52%)
- Gym (51%)
- Self-catering facilities (50%)
- Bike lockers (50%)
- Bar or drinks (48%)
- Showering and changing facilities (43%)
Fostering collaboration and connectivity
What can we take away from this list?
Most notable is that office tenants are seeking an open, collaborative experience for their staff when they head into the office. This is a key trend of hybrid working practices, which are becoming commonplace; if employees only travel into the workplace two or three times a week, it is likely that those days will be spent engaging with colleagues, sharing ideas and addressing issues, with the remote working days spent on more siloed or individual tasks. The way a workspace functions has to reflect that.
Technology has a role to play here. Indeed, the majority (53%) of office landlords see a workplace app as being important in attracting tenants. This should not be understated: an app can seamlessly integrate all a building’s facilities, allowing tenants to easily organise their day-to-day activities and connect with like-minded individuals. It can promote the community and events. Provide discounts and offers to members. Plus, communication between tenants and landlords is enhanced, too – timely updates can be sent when needed to all occupiers, questions can be addressed directly through the app, and community newsletters can be sent to promote the all-important social fabric of a workspace.
The office must now be a hub of creativity, innovation and collaboration. Certainly, this was at the forefront of our minds when infinitSpace transformed then launched our first London workspace earlier this year – beyond Aldgate Tower is focused on delivering an exceptional experience, rather than a desk and a chair.
In the months to come, commercial landlords across the UK must embrace the challenge that lies before them. The demands and expectations of their tenants have shifted. But the solution – to create exceptional, inspiring and beautiful workspaces – is one that will transform the entire office market for the better. I, for one, cannot wait to see this transformation unfold.