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Office owners need to get agile with their offer

Any business individual in the region can’t fail to have watched the recent achievements of Visualsoft. They’re a fantastic North East success story.

The specialist ecommerce team, with its HQ in Stockton on Tees, has been turning everyone’s heads in recent months. They seem to be getting everything right, so much so that their whole ethos on how to employ people and the conditions they offer has spawned its very own HR company in Hive HR.

Such is their dedication to keeping employees happy, they have created their own offshoot to advise others on the best methods of employee engagement!

So what are those in the business of providing quality commercial space learning from this? Well, there’s no doubt that agile offices are in big demand and, as such, those offering what they think may be competitive advantages need to think hard about their offering.

Take Visualsoft’s example. They let their staff work where they feel they will be most productive. They’ll supply an office environment if that’s what their staff want, but bosses there don’t care if an employee decides they get the job done best while sat in Starbucks, on their sofa or a sunny park bench in Singapore. Technology allows service providers and traditional office based work to be done from anywhere.

It is not easy for commercial space providers to meet these sorts of challenges. The smart ones will start to view the requests of office occupiers as service – not square footage – providers.

With the ‘work anywhere’ attitudes of today’s workforce, traditional office densities have shrunk from what may have been 160 sq ft per person five or six years ago, to 90 sq ft per person now.

Office occupation costs are generally accepted to be between six to seven percent of total business costs. While significant, its small compared to wage costs and when viewed in comparison, is a steal, given that the right choice can make such a vast impact on the happiness and productivity of your workforce.

Office suppliers who realise they’re likely to be sat on dead space need to invest in filling it with the attractions which are now seen to make for a good working environment: –

  • Prime and accessible locations, close to modern comforts and transport links
  • A prestigious building with a feel good factor
  • Better facilities in the building: coffee shops, breakout areas, gyms, cycle racks, showers and green space.
  • Shared services: reception areas, access to meeting rooms and PA assistance

The trend will grow – inside and outside of London – towards businesses relocating into smaller offices or shared spaces that minimise on wastage. Those with sprawling, out-of-town, close-to-nowhere office units have a big fight on their hands to compensate for the lack of perceived attractions that fit contemporary working practices.

Office occupiers would now rather pay more per square foot for a smaller space, in order to be able to facilitate the demands of their current and incoming workforces and be at the centre of the action, than they would having a vast and largely useless areas of space in their offices.

Apart from in London, the car, parking and access to main routes in and out will remain a consideration, but even this is likely to become less of a factor in influencing office choice.

Owners and developers of office buildings who do not adapt or invest in their buildings to reflect this sea change will be left with empty buildings.