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In the Workplace – What Matters Most to Occupiers

There has been a noticeable increase in managed workspace throughout Manchester and the UK’s other major cities. You just have to scroll through LinkedIn to encounter numerous ‘flexible working space’ articles and references to ‘Generation Z workforce’. It seems that SMEs and particularly start-ups, are now less inclined to buy or lease conventional office space and find the flexibility of renting a small space in the heart of the city centre (with less commitment and often at a lesser cost) more appealing. Occupiers often hold the space on a short term licence and simply pay for the amenities they use; those amenities usually being ‘edgy’ – yes, we’re talking meditation pods!

These spaces are also appealing to those that are self-employed, freelancers and those individuals who require a greater degree of flexibility. Since 2008 it is reported that there has been a 15% increase in self-employment across the UK and the co-working sector is continually expanding. But it’s not just start-ups and the self-employed that find these spaces appealing; the likes of Lloyds and HSBC have taken up managed spaces, possibly to utilise the seemingly popular ‘plug and pay’ spaces for specific projects and to widen their net without being tied up into a lengthy lease.

The American company WeWork is one notable provider of shared, flexible workspaces right on our doorstep at No 1 Spinningfields. Research from Cushman and Wakefield (2019) confirms that WeWork are the largest corporate office occupier in London. Individuals who would ordinarily be working in isolation can now be part of a wider community with the benefit of working with like-minded individuals and the opportunity for networking and cross-referrals. Proponents of the model often describe the space as feeling more entrepreneurial and forward thinking. Plus at a time of economic uncertainty, office space without long term financial commitment might be considered (in certain circumstances) the best way to go.

Many others though do still prefer the traditional office set-up, especially for businesses where employee head count can’t be counted on two hands or where the workforce being physically ‘on the ground’ is important. A stable base is very appealing to many and may be an important part of customer delivery. The 9 to 5 model may well work for your business. Plus are these co-working spaces too noisy? The opportunity for networking and creativity is advantageous, but day to day would this style work for your business?  

One possible issue with the WeWork model may be the lack of regulatory framework which has yet to be properly established and is having difficulty keeping up with the speed of growth of this sector. There is also the issue of security, both with cyber and personal belongings. With GDPR being of paramount importance in the workplace, it can be difficult to ensure that data is protected where you have people sharing work areas and communal facilities. These are some of the questions being asked.

Whether you require a short-term licence, a long-term lease or are looking to sell or acquire freehold space, our Commercial Real Estate team have the knowledge and expertise to assist.

This blog was co-authored by Katie Powell and Jessica Hotchin.

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