The successful deployment of the vaccine is extremely encouraging news and brings with it renewed hope for companies as they prepare for staff to return to the office in the near future. For the flexible office industry in particular, we anticipate a surge in demand, which we are already starting to see taking shape as the way people work becomes more agile. Companies are already starting to adapt to this way of working, for several reasons: either because of the amount of space they take up, or the length of the lease they sign, or simply because they want to add a flexible option to their portfolio to support a more agile work strategy.
The flexible office sector is preparing to respond to the strong and new demand for this type of space. However, the world of work has undeniably changed and this will be more and more evident during the initial phases of companies returning to the office as we will have to adapt to new rules such as: social distancing, the travel system one-way, and part-time access to our offices. As the stakes in the flexible office sector are high, it is necessary that the various operators be strong in their proposals in terms of offers when the companies return to the office.
The level of amenity of a building will be more important than ever and the emphasis will be on the various departments that will encourage staff to come to the office rather than working remotely. It is important to recognize that employees will have had very different work experiences over the past 12 months and that their priorities in terms of workplace attractiveness will also be different. For some, it could be the attraction to natural light and bright spaces, while for others, community spaces for activities or collaborative spaces can be seen as essential. Outdoor spaces such as private or shared terraces are another attractive feature. There might also be an appeal to large meeting rooms. As physical meetings occur less, companies no longer want to pay for such space on a permanent basis.
Proximity to transport centers and proximity to car parks or even private car parks will also be two extremely important aspects, as will the provision of bicycle storage and a shower / changing room service. Ease of access is also a factor to take into account, as staff must be able to enter and exit the building in a safe and efficient manner, in accordance with Covid regulations.
As the sector grows, the choice of occupants will widen and competition between operators will intensify. We may also see an increase in the popularity of operators with multiple sites, able to satisfy an agile way of working and meet the needs of those who work in a main office or closer to home.
With the lower end of the market becoming more and more competitive, creating a flexible two tier office market. There is a deterioration in the quality of the offer and it is the high-end flexible spaces that will be the most efficient in the medium and long term.