The future of the office

I spoke last night at an event in Leicester – the theme being ‘trends in the office market’.


Some of my comments:

  • A new report released by Leesman, one month ago said that half of British offices are not fit for purpose.
  • We spend a big chunk of our life in these places. Britons spend a total of 90,000 hours at work during their lifetimes.
  • We know that average lease lengths have come down – evidence suggests that across the UK the average is now 4.6 years for a small occupier – 5.2 for a larger occupier.
  • Landlords have had to re-think the model. This is not about short-term leases but long term relationships. It is about service levels and flexibility. It is about a hope that the small tenants will grow into new spaces.
  • In London, some of my competitors work on one desk per two staff – that probably works because we are surveyors and are ‘out’ but other industries suggest 1:1.6…The price of a bin is high…one square foot in London might be £100 per year.
  • We need social interaction  – clustering of like-minded people is important. It’s important from bringing on new talent. A sense of identity and some creature comforts have a place.
  • Most businesses are people to people businesses.  For these reasons the physical office still has, in my view, a place.
  • When Google built its ultra-trendy offices in California hundreds rushed to copy the weird and whacky. That’s a bit like putting black Tudor beams on your Wimpey house kitchen ceiling. Don’t do it – its not big and its not clever. It is not authentic.
  • We have shorter term leases, an increasingly sophisticated end-user and, in the east midlands – a shortage of stock. But we have values resolutely stuck over a period of around 5-6 years – with increasing costs. If you wonder why the crane count in the east midlands is so woefully low it is that the gap between cost and value is simply too big to allow speculatively development.
  • But it isn’t all negative – now I can work from almost anywhere in the world, my office is bright and clean, cool in the summer and warm in the winter. And we play pool at lunchtimes!

My summary:

  • The open plan office is here to stay in my view – but concentration spaces are critical. Social space is important to help those interactions – the so-called water cooler moments.
  • We will become more even more agile, the IT is getting better, faster and more efficient.
  • I think we will see shared space offerings continue to develop – especially clustered around specific sectors.
  • And some of my colleagues will become paperless – in the meantime we will aim for less-paper. That in itself will change offices – the lack of a need for filing! But then we may need better server rooms – secure and cooled?

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