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The traditional office is surplus to requirements; but the future is bright, the future is flex

A new age is dawning for the office. With research suggesting 73% of workers want to be able to work from home after the pandemic, the face of work will never be the same again. Whilst many are questioning just how relevant the office is in this new world, I believe that flexible experience-led workplaces will be as important as ever.

But, it’s time to recognise that the traditional office model is now surplus to requirements and no longer fit for purpose. The days of landlords offering long-term leases on large, empty boxes are over. The idea of a long-term lease has been challenged – possibly forever. Instead, the future of real estate is flexible, experiential and fit for purpose. Businesses the world over now require flexible, amenity-rich, as-a-service spaces that support the evolving needs of their fast-changing demands and ways of working.

What’s next for landlords?

So, an office revolution is here. We’re fed up with glitchy video calls, missing the office chatter and the greater sense of purpose and balance that a physical workspace brings. We want to go back to the office, but on different terms. In this new and uncertain world, the only feasible way for landlords to continue expanding their portfolios and filling their existing buildings is by offering flexible space. I believe that in order to remain relevant and attract tenants, nearly every multi-tenant building will need to be able to deliver a flexible component.

Defining flex

When we talk about flex or space-as-a-service, we’re not talking about coworking or shared spaces. Flex is office space that is move-in ready yet comes with flexibility around layout, terms, growth/shrink capabilities, and building services offered alongside enterprise-grade physical and digital security. Flexibility in this context represents a spectrum of products and services, from shorter leases to private offices and spec suites. Consequently, landlords are no longer limited to only provisioning real estate, they are more inclined to provide a wider range of value-added services and amenities to their tenants.

Changing occupier demands

Your occupiers need to continue to stand out from the crowd in order to attract and retain the brightest and best talent. Office space is intrinsically linked to the culture of a business, and is a strategic way for them to achieve this aim – hence why occupier expectations are greatly influenced by employee demands.

Now, more than ever, talented employees want rewarding and engaging environments that give them an experience. To meet these demands, there are three key considerations for landlords to respond to:

1. Safety, health and wellbeing

It’s clear that although a return to the workplace is back on the cards this year, the end of the pandemic is not. A Covid-secure workplace is going to be of paramount importance for employers and employees alike. Flexible spaces are able to take this headache away from occupiers, especially for smaller businesses that lack resources.

Mental health and wellbeing have also never been as prominent in the national psyche as it is currently. As we return to the workplace, employees will be looking to continue this into their new regimes and spaces that improve their quality of their life. Office space that can cater for this and promote the ‘life’ in ‘work-life balance’, will benefit.

2. Collaboration

We’re all missing face to face contact and need to rebuild our social capital levels. But with increased flexible working, teams won’t all be in the same place at once. Offices will seamlessly integrate remote employees with in-office employees, and tech will be a big part of this. Meetings and gatherings may also require more space due to rules and regulations, so offering tenants flexible use of large facilities as and when they need it is a win-win for both.

3. Experience and amenities

Workplaces need to take more inspiration from the hotel industry – offices will no longer be a place we have to come to, but a place we chose to travel to. They will need to offer a frictionless experience, that ‘just works’ to help employees get on with the job in hand. No slow internet or trouble connecting to devices at a bare minimum.

Employees will require engaging environments that are aesthetically pleasing and inspire enthusiasm and creativity. Many will hesitate to reintroduce long train commutes to their daily routines, so creating a compelling working environment will go a long way to reduce the Sunday night dread. Services and hospitality will play a crucial role in shaping that experience too. Landlords that consider the world beyond their physical workspaces will have a competitive edge in attracting occupiers.

To accommodate the adoption of flexible workspaces and the wide range of demands from tenants, it’s time to embrace technology to help make it a reality.

Adopting the right tech

A flexible workspace operation is inherently complicated. Managing multi-tenanted environments, shorter leases, shared resources and multiple buildings or locations requires a unique toolkit. Technology is critical in effectively handling these dynamic components. But implementing the right technology, and at scale, is riddled with challenges as well. To provide a great customer experience and create a differentiator in a buyer’s market, landlords need to address:

1. Digital Infrastructure

The network that powers a building is a critical factor in attracting and retaining occupiers. Landlords must offer security, resilience and service performance, to satisfy the needs of their occupiers. This includes reliable internet connectivity and access for seamless collaboration.

2. Space Management

The software used to manage a space is now mission-critical to providing a great experience, solving problems, adopting a flexible workspace offering and quickly creating move-in-ready spaces for occupiers.

3. The digital experience

It’s no longer enough just to have reliable connectivity. Technology now influences how occupiers adopt, use and interact with workspaces. The best tenants now require on-demand services that are available at their fingertips through customisable mobile apps and web portals – delivering a self-service environment.

If landlords can’t meet tenants’ need for immediate and secure services then they’ll be unable to meet the expectations of the post-pandemic occupiers and employees. By creating a flexible space proposition that promotes great experience and collaboration, supported by the right technology, the return to the workplace of tomorrow will be a more productive and valuable space for all. The office has a role to play in the future, but the traditional model is no longer fit for purpose.

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