What Office Occupiers Want

Metropolis researchers often hear of some unusual requests from office occupiers looking for the next base, which can trigger some sales opportunities for suppliers, so this week’s blog looks at some of the latest trends in office design.

A recent report by Lambert Smith Hampton examined some of the features of occupier demand. Slides, swings, ball ponds or a spot of mini golf were once the height of coolness. Revered and ridiculed in equal measure, the trend towards putting the fun factor into the office on the wish-list of technology and media start-ups. As with all fads, attitudes change and many have realised that the workforce and management need something different. That difference is functionality. The expectations that the workforce has on the workplace have largely been a result of technology, demographic and employment changes. It is these factors that have and will continue to evolve the thinking and implementation of design. The emphasis is now more on productivity and sustainability, increasingly being cost effective.

Technology has increasingly dictated change over the past decade. New technologies have tended to dispense with data rooms, to fixed desk PCs, to landline phones. The fast pace of technological change has
made it difficult to future proof office design. Technology is making the tools we use more portable, more personal and increasingly smaller, space can be therefore be devoted to more productive, collaborative and engaging activities rather than static desk spaces.

Designing a space that is functional and productive for the entire workforce is a difficult task, when it is required to retain the company culture and enhance the future one. Functional and productive design includes areas for team-work, quiet spaces, meeting rooms and private offices are all elements that need to be given some thought. If specific features are wanted, they must hold meaning and have purpose.. A
games room or even a fully functioning kitchen can help to create a shared space for everyone to come together.

The recent locational flexibility of occupiers has been underlined by recent occupier decisions. Media groups such as McCann relocating to the City of London, WPP to the Southbank or pharmaceutical Novartis’ move to White City, illustrate that old certainties about search areas are breaking down. Traditional certainties of lawyers in Midtown, hedge funds in Mayfair and government departments in Victoria are breaking down. For decades business sectors have been wedded to certain postcodes, submarkets and even streets. Whilst this has been slowly changing over recent years, the current pace is expected to step up a notch, as tenants are now more open-minded about their next workplace than ever before.

The main driver of change is the growth of technology that creates a truly connected workforce. The ability for people to work anywhere, at any time, has caused a re-imagination of the office and the role it plays. This technology revolution has changed people’s expectations of working practices, meaning the workplace is having to adapt. As a result, tenants are becoming ever more open to the type of space that they will operate from. Secondly, the workforce itself has changed. A wide range of ages in the office means a more complex and thoughtful approach to providing the right kind
of working environment.

In addition, the boundaries of London’s office market have grown over the past 25 years as new development has rippled westwards to Paddington, eastwards to Canary Wharf, north and south with King’s Cross and Southbank respectively. 2019 will see those boundaries push further out as regeneration, and improving transport links crystallise. Stratford and the Olympic Park is gaining leasing momentum. So too is White City to the west.

Some analysts think that offices will evolve to become more like coworking, with occupier space becomes about much more than just a building or a physical space to go and work in, it’s also an international supportive community.

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