In the modern world, it is often stated that: ‘The only thing that is constant is change’. How true that it is today, especially in the technology / digital era workplace. A recent World Economic Forum article http://tinyurl.com/jqyodrd talks about riding the wave of workplace change. It references the 2013 Oxford University study on the potential impact of computerisation on the U.S. workforce http://tinyurl.com/oj67kae which, of course, could apply equally to other worldwide countries, including the UK. The pace of change – Malone’s third law: ‘‘Every technology break through takes twice as long as we expected and half as long as we are prepared for’’ – is unerring.
There is a growing recognition of change, acknowledged by savvy developers, such as Jacob Loftus [@jacobloftus], a Londoner who describes himself as a creative real estate developer, urban explorer and tech enthusiast. His guiding thesis is this: ‘‘by 2020, 50% of the global working population will have been born after 1980. By 2025 that number goes up to 75%. Those demographics don’t lie. Millennials will make up the vast majority of the occupier base over the next decade. They are tech inspired, tech enabled, they are socially connected, they are design led, and they have all grown up – in their professional lives, at least – through a recession.’’ To boot, there was even a recent definition of the *‘centennial’ generation who have an even greater awareness of technology capability.
*“They eat vegan, ‘curate’ their online ‘aesthetic’ and can’t remember a time before iPads: meet the Centennials.”Luckhurst, The Evening Standard, 2016
What is relevant about millennials and centennials? Put simply, they have particular desires and requirements for their workspaces. That is why it is important to think carefully about work places of the future.
Another important trend is the rise of solopreneurs. The latest edition of ‘Occupier Edge’ by Cushman & Wakefield http://tinyurl.com/zjqsezx (p.22 – 24) suggests that by 2020, 40% of the global workforce will be solopreneurs which will be a game changer, underscoring the need for flexible office environments. If corroboration was needed for the signals of change, over the last 5 years, the upward trend in new business start-ups in the UK reached more than 600,000 in 2015. Co-working and free addressing are key trends.
As regards legal and operational issues, the idea of purchasing a membership to share working space is very different from entering into a lease of office premises. Instead, co-working members are given a licence to use space either on a first come first served basis, or they may have specific desks or office space allocated to them. The Landlord & Tenant Act 1954 is avoided by licences being drafted so that members do not have exclusive possession of any part of the space to avoid any argument in the future that they may have acquired security of tenure. Landlords can still (potentially) take advantage of the co-working phenomenon by letting space to the co-working provider instead because established providers can demonstrate good covenant strength.
Co-working is defined as the use of an office or other working environment by people who are self-employed or working for different employers, typically so as to share equipment, ideas and knowledge. Key to success of co-working is the unique layout of the space. Co-working tends to suit a more compact floorplate, which lends itself to member interaction.
Examples of such co-working organisations include WeWork https://www.wework.com/ , Regus http://www.regus.co.uk/ , The Office Group http://www.theofficegroup.co.uk/ . Local organisations of this ilk include Welsh ICE http://welshice.org/ ; Indycube http://indycube.cymru/ and Meanwhile Creative http://tinyurl.com/jym94zz . Cushman & Wakefield suggest that ‘the capacity of co-working space in London is growing around 10% per annum, while cafés, hotels and even the homes of strangers are being repurposed and rented out as workspace.’ They suggest that a co-working space in the city of London can be as little as 50% of the total occupancy costs of a conventional leased office workstation space. Indeed, in the centre of Cardiff (the capital for Wales), a fully-inclusive monthly charge per workstation is £245 + VAT per desk inclusive of all of the following:
- State of the art telephone system
- Digital telephone handsets on every desk
- High speed internet connection to every desk
- Staffed main reception
- Mail services
- Bookable meeting facilities
- Insurances (building & Landlord contents)
- Business rates
- Landlord’s service charges
- Building services and Statutory compliance
So what does this mean for offices of the future? In simple terms, it means a trend towards smaller footprints, remote activities and space on demand.
Cushman & Wakefield (ibid: p.41 – 43) go further in their analysis of the fourth revolution http://tinyurl.com/hlah7ot vis-à-vis technological, demographic / socio-economic and job trends. Offices of the future will be smarter, better connected, greener and (more than likely) smaller. They will be spaces that foster ‘innovation and knowledge creation.’ Research in Paris reveals that the traditional office no longer appeals (93% of graduates don’t want to work in such a place). This suggests that corporate culture is being trumped by a drive towards choice and flexibility. That said, the pull of the city-centre is still strong, with 87% wanting to work in urban cores. This was evidenced locally by the relocation of Blurrt http://www.blurrt.co.uk/ from Cwmbran to Cardiff manifesting a thirst for collaboration and hunger for learning. Furthermore, savvy businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of the health and well-being of their employees. This means having, or creating workplaces that reflect their values and the human-side of sustainability. The relatively new WELL Building Standard (ibid: p.46 – 47) administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) http://tinyurl.com/gr3zugd is a step on from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification http://tinyurl.com/jyu3zpr . It concentrates exclusively on the health and wellbeing of occupants, important in attracting the talent of the future.
Service providers such as Gensler http://tinyurl.com/h5zbgjt and Paramount Interiors http://tinyurl.com/jufb754 are aware of the wave of change, and the inconvenient truth(s) for the UK workplace http://tinyurl.com/hzjjm4o : (i) open plan workspace per se impacts on performance (better to offer a choice of spaces that support a variety of employee workstyles); (ii) strategies that match space to need rather than seniority present an opportunity to engage; and (iii) ‘‘great design drives innovation and creativity.’’
The once mundane office, as suggested by Nesta http://tinyurl.com/hpyp8js is now becoming a ‘‘machine of thinking’’. Therefore, it needs to be fit for the 21st century work place.
Robert I Chapman