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Costar column: The next generation of offices

By David Laws - Thursday, October 05, 2017 12:23

Over the past three decades, two key drivers have had a massive impact on how businesses work, says Matthews and Goodman partner David Laws.

The first is technology and the second is the changing expectations of the workforce. Today we can connect to anyone, anywhere, at any time via e-mail, Skype, instant messaging, social media or video calling: it is a given that work is no longer somewhere you go but something you do.

Secondly, the make-up of the workforce has changed.  Businesses must accommodate the needs and expectations of employees who are working for longer before retirement and the millennial worker in the same office environment. For the younger worker, the perception of work life boundaries are blurred, with the rigidity of formal wear and ‘office hours’ an alien concept. The millennial workforce is driving change, seeking engagement, excitement, stimulation, social interaction and a ‘home away from home’, meaning today’s work spaces need to work much harder.

Because of this transformation, the demands for space are increasingly focused on quality not quantity. In a property market of higher costs and overheads, occupiers must maximise the efficiency of their space, as well as address the need for “product differentiation” with regards to the work environment. Granted, new build offices will always offer choice without compromise due to modern regulations and guidelines. However with some good design and small adjustments, growing companies can take advantage of the North West’s more historic buildings and transform them into fantastic workspaces with amenities to rival the new builds and more character to boot.

As millennials will make up the majority of the workforce within the next 10 years, companies have to change their offering in terms of space to attract and retain talent. Forward thinking businesses are looking for spaces that feel different from the typical corporate office environment and provide the flexible working and social inclusivity that this generation has come to expect.

This way of working is not only for the tech sector, businesses in all industries are adopting similar ways of working because they understand the relationship between work space, brand and culture. Although where you work is less important than what you do, offices are still perceived to be a brand statement in attracting and retaining talent and communicating a firm’s brand ethos to its clients.

Fast-paced, growing companies want a creative working environment that keeps employees engaged. With the plethora of older buildings being vacated and modernised, new builds are not necessarily always the answer. A building refurbished to a business’ exact specification, which meets today’s and tomorrow’s needs, can provide the team with a unique environment to continue the company’s growth journey, keep employees engaged and really put the business on the map.

David Laws is partner in Matthews and Goodman's National Business Space team.

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