Editors Note: The following content has been provided by Richard Morris, Director at the internet and workspace management software firm, technologywithin.
September has seen a promising return to the office with occupancy levels hitting 87% which has been very welcome news for many landlords and businesses.
However, this is not a return to normality and, with 70% of workers predicting that workers will never return to offices at the same rate, there is more competition than ever for tenants who are demanding greater flexibility.
At the same time, second-hand “grey-space” is also creating an even more competitive market as property owners are facing competition from sub-lets. There has been a drastic increase in this “grey-space” in the London office market during the pandemic with it growing from 2.9 million sq ft at the end of March 2020 to 6.1 million sq ft by January 2021. In this extremely crowded market, it is essential that landlords refresh their model in order to survive.
Becoming a “one stop shop”
As workers do return to the office they come with different and greater demands. Flexible working has proven extremely popular and, in a survey of 3,000 professionals, 50% said they preferred working from home because it was more flexible whilst 58% considered it a time saver. In order to remain competitive, landlords must match the flexibility and time saving nature of working from home.
It is no longer enough to simply provide a workspace, it is also necessary to match the ease of working from home by offering more from a building. For example, bringing multiple amenities under one roof can provide workers with a convenience that matches, and even betters, that of working from home. Including services such as GP surgeries, hair salons, cafés and bars means that an office space can become a “one stop shop” for everything tenants need. This increased offering means that landlords can ensure that workers don’t just return to the office but also remain there.
Joining the “hotelification” trend
In order to tempt tenants back to their buildings it is vital that landlords embrace the “hotelification” trend in offices. More and more, landlords are looking to offer hospitality amenities and services that can match the comfort and convenience of home. Property developer Helical, for example, has predicted that this trend is only set to continue increasing in popularity as workers begin to expect more from their offices.
In fact, 73% of employees aged 25-34 feel that they should be provided with higher-quality office space as they abandon the creature comforts of their homes. With the comfort and convenience of working from home encouraging workers to demand more from their space, landlords must bring in the hospitality to ensure their offering remains competitive and in tune with current demands.
Invest in digital infrastructure
With 70% of workers still wanting flexible working options to remain, it is abundantly clear that hybrid working is here to stay. Therefore, landlords looking to be ready for the new working life must invest in robust technology infrastructure which unites the office workers with their remote colleagues.
With 57% of workers having missed in-person conversations with their colleagues, landlords must offer a solution. High-spec videoconferencing solutions can provide improved collaboration and conversation between tenants as work life becomes more fluid.
Technology will also be at the forefront of tempting workers back into the office. A recent survey found that 16 million working days were lost over the course of this year from internet outages. In light of this, a well-connected office will be a strong draw for returning workers and investing in a dedicated bandwidth model can deliver reliable connection for tenants and returns for landlords.
Smart digital infrastructure will also be a key aspect of the post-pandemic office. 34% of workers have said that ‘self-service’ touchless AI-enabled systems, such as systems that can adjust lighting, heating or air conditioning with voice control, could help them feel more comfortable and Covid-secure when returning to the office.
As office life begins to resume, workers have continued to put a firm emphasis on flexible working. Having enjoyed the comforts of home working life, office workers are demanding more from their office space than ever before.
As a result, landlords must adapt their strategy in order to survive. Matching the comforts and benefits of home working can be a key step in tackling this. However, it is clear that technological infrastructure will also be a deciding factor in the future of offices. Providing reliable and secure technology which can be as flexible as the new working trends demand will ensure that landlords can future-proof their offerings.