Flexibility is the key theme this week starting with a guest feature by Alex Brunner, COO of Clockwise, a provider of serviced workspaces and offices across the UK, advising the adoption a new approach to post-pandemic working.
While widespread predictions of the death of traditional office life have proven to be premature at best, over the past year or so both employers and employees have adapted to – and appreciated the benefits of – the new normal of remote working. So much so that, a complete return to the old normal of 9-5 office life and five-day a week commute seems unlikely.
The future, writes Brunner, is hybrid and flexible, with employees mixing remote-working with office life, and companies establishing 'satellite' or regional locations for workers through serviced workspace providers.
"Flexibility then, is about more than just coming into the office two days a week," says Brunner. "It requires a total recalibration of how we think about “work” as a concept. It seems most likely that at least in the medium term, these changes are here to stay, and in many cases, will be permanent."
Bruntwood Works, a provider of flexible workspaces in North West England has been in the news too, this week, signing a new agreement for 106 workstations at its new Bloc facility in Manchester with small business services supplier Verastar. As well as co-working space, Bloc offers meeting rooms, a cinema room, an event auditorium, plus a state-of-the-art yoga studio by FORM and a sleep pod, not to mention living walls and an indoor garden aimed at increasing oxygen levels and boosting productivity and wellbeing.
And at nearby Bruntwood Works property the Lancastrian in Old Trafford, the company has embarked on a project to deliver an open-air rooftop workspace with views across Lancashire County Cricket Club.
In London meanwhile, flexible serviced office provider Breezblok has extended its tenancy at St Magnus House on Lower Thames Street in EC3. The company, which offers 42,000 sq ft of space at the site says it is now 97 per cent occupied with take up having increased by almost 30 per cent from Q1.
“The last year has been testing for the office market, but we are seeing a reawakening with businesses and employees moving back to the office," Tadhg Flanagan, Managing Director of Breezblok. "There is surging demand from start-ups that have flourished in lockdown, or project-led corporates looking for affordable quality space with no management stress.”
With some companies having given up their old offices in favour of more flexible arrangements, and many retail premises also empty as a result of the pandemic, there's a chance to provide more affordable social housing, according to Habitat for Humanity Great Britain. The charity has partnered with savings and investment company M&G to explore how homelessness can be addressed by repurposing vacant commercial property around the UK.
Despite the problems currently facing commercial property, Colliers is expecting total returns for the sector to hit 6.4 per cent in 2021, with 4.8 per cent coming from income returns and 1.6 per cent from capital growth. "The latest business and consumer confidence survey data suggests that the economy will bounce back strongly in Q2," says Oliver Kolodseike, deputy chief economist at Colliers.
Sticking with predictions, Savills has compiled a list of the European cities and regions that, in five years time, will be particularly ‘youthful’, having the largest share of people aged 20-39, and those that will be the most ‘aged’, with the highest number of people aged 65 or older. The purpose of the research is to identify locations where operational residential real estate, such as purpose-built student accommodation and senior housing, will be most needed.
“Given the amount of capital chasing the sector and the limited amount of high quality stock available, our analysis allows developers, investors and operators to look five years into the future and anticipate in which cities demand for senior living, healthcare, student housing, co-living and multifamily is likely to grow," says Marcus Roberts, Head of Europe for Savills Operational Capital Markets.
Property Funds World