The commercial property landscape has changed dramatically in the past 24 months, as the global coronavirus pandemic forced employers to rethink how they work.
In our latest What’s Trending Now feature, property developer Paul Wellstead, the man behind Spectrum Business Park, chats about hybrid working and how office space has adapted for the better.
EDB: It’s been a tough couple of years for businesses. How has that impacted on the commercial property market? PW: It certainly has, particularly in the very early stages when the country was plunged into the first lockdown. No one knew what to expect and businesses were not prepared for what was to come. For some businesses the ability to switch to home working was fairly seamless, however many didn’t have the resources in place to make the switch and it really caught them out.
Gradually, as we adapted to the changes to working which were necessary, businesses made their workplaces Covid-safe and that meant they could once again have people back in the office, albeit in a more ‘hybrid’ way because of social distancing measures.
I feel however that the lasting impact of the Covid pandemic on the office workplace will be a positive one. The pandemic has accelerated the move towards companies placing greater value upon their staff and their well-being.
A significant part of this approach is providing the very best in workplace environments with cutting edge fit-out designs that provide staff with a stimulating, rewarding and exciting office environment.
It is fair to say that the days of offices consisting of rows of desks are now long gone. In its place, the modern office embraces a new approach with massively increased proportion of break out space, food offerings, wellness areas and lower desk density.
EDB: Do you think hybrid-working is here to stay? PW: To a degree yes, although I think we will see in the next 18 months a gradual desire from employees to be back in the office more and more. Businesses will maintain their flexible working policy, which enables staff to split their time between the office and home. The key difference is that employers with vision are creating such exciting office space that, whilst some staff may work at home a day or two a week, their office is of such high quality that they very much look forward to their in-office days.
EDB: How has commercial office space changed since the coronavirus pandemic started back in 2020? PW: Office occupation as we know it had to adapt and there have been some real game changing results. What I am finding overall is that whilst a small number of businesses have shrunk their office footprint, in today’s competitive labour market the leading employers are actually seeking larger space in which to provide the very highest quality of work environment.
Two great examples of this can be found at Spectrum Business Park, within the buildings occupied by Great Annual Savings Group (GAS) and believe housing. GAS has undergone a £3m investment project on site, which has quadrupled its current space and allowed them to create hundreds more jobs. The company’s move into newly branded Sea View HQ in Spectrum 7, with its super high end fit out – demonstrating not only a commitment to creating a stimulating and relaxed office space for the workforce, but also creating a space which complies with Government guidelines around social distancing.
It’s the type of office space that will attract talent – GAS have really thought about the space they occupy to create an environment that allows for both office and home working, with networking space available for team sessions that require multiple attendees, whilst still observing social distancing. Add to this a full restaurant, gym, wellness suite and quiet zones and you can see how GAS are able to recruit and retain the very best staff.
The same can be said for believe housing, which recently invested in additional space at Spectrum 4 to bring all their regional offices together under one roof. The organisation’s facilities are seriously ground-breaking, challenging perceptions of what office space should look like. The attention to detail in every corner of the building is superb – believe has created an environment that perfectly brings together flexible working with facilities that will certainly motivate their staff when they’re working on site.
EDB: As a property developer what would you say to employers looking at their business footprint? PW: I’d certainly urge them to build their vision for their business around their staff.
Key to success and growth is recruiting the very best personnel. With an increasingly tight labour market, employees are being drawn more and more to the employers that reward and value their staff by providing excellent office space.
Achieving this requires firms to aim to grow their office footprint, not shrink it. Securing modern, flexible space that lends itself to creative fit-outs, at a competitive cost of occupation, is key.
EDB: Spectrum Business Park is nearing full occupation. What does 2022 hold for you? PW: Spectrum Business Park is very much leading the way in showcasing how employers can adapt to create a better, efficient, and more relaxed working environment for their workforce. There are some big announcements at Spectrum in the pipeline. The park is already home to some of the region’s leading businesses and organisations and I am looking forward to announcing new occupiers and further growth of existing tenants.