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CoStar Column: Britain’s Missed Middle SMEs are being left behind by office design

By Simon Gammell - Thursday, May 10, 2018 14:50

SMEs are the lifeblood of landlords up and down the country, yet they are being held back by their workplace design and environment, writes Simon Gammell, director, Crown Workspace.

There has been considerable growth in serviced office space for emerging businesses and state of the art designer offices for the multi-national conglomerates. Whilst they have a key role to play in housing some of Britain’s companies, they are not accessible for many SMEs – the Missed Middle firms.

Designer offices are not accessible to all firms

Research we have conducted shows that although designer offices are increasing in popularity amongst businesses in the creative and technology sectors, they are not deemed accessible for a fifth (21%) of SME business owners.

Whilst the likes of WeWork and Workspace are creating serviced offices aimed at newer and smaller businesses, it is firms with a smaller turnover who feel they are not accessible. Just 54% of companies with a turnover of under £1million believe they are, compared with 92% of companies with a turnover of £50 million and over.

SME business owners indicated several reasons why designer offices are not accessible to firms like theirs:

  • More than half (51%) indicated that they are too expensive
  • Almost a third (29%) said they are in the wrong locations
  • Almost a quarter (24%) stated they do not suit their ethos or brand
  • More than 1 in 10 (14%) expressed they are not flexible enough for their organisational needs

Workplace design stunts SME growth

SMEs are mindful of growing their workforce and increasing the size of their operation, but the space in which they operate is often stunting growth and failing them when it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent.

Our research highlights that more than two thirds (68%) of business owners said their current workplace is limiting engagement and ability to attract and retain the best talent, whilst 50% are concerned that their workspace is failing to attract the best candidates to work at their organisation.

The two greatest costs for any business are their workforce and their workplace. If the workplace isn’t working for the workforce, then a business is going to be far less productive and less profitable.

But what are the alternatives for this ‘missed middle’ group of businesses.

The role of the property industry

The property industry, including developers, landlords, designers and office providers, need to come together to do more for SMEs in their quest for the optimum workspace.

Developers and landlords should to be mindful of requirements of SMEs. Importantly, looking at where they build new office space and the types of amenities they include. But, above all, that they deliver the right bang for the buck.

The trend in recent years has been to develop open plan flexible office spaces, giving occupiers the ability to manage space how they like and let employees collaborate in large communal spaces.

However, our research shows that this is now having a detrimental impact on employee wellbeing and communication.

Developers and landlords must also be mindful of implementing a hybrid office design. The design principles are based on providing a more balanced working environment with open, flexible areas to enable employees to interact and be creative, alongside quieter, closed spaces for confidential matters and relaxation. This design can help to increase employee engagement and boost productivity, as well as attract new talent.

Working together to provide the optimum workspace

Whilst office space has come a long way from cramming in as many desks as possible to where it is now; there is clearly still a long way to go.

Business owners must engage with their employees in the design of their workspace to ensure their opinions are considered. They must also engage with their landlord and take advantage of their lease deal to make improvements to their office space.

By Simon Gammell, Director, Crown Workspace  

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