“Developers and occupiers alike are embracing change”: The agents’ view: Part 3 – Offices

This week we’ve handed the mic over to our agents, delving into what occupiers really want from their homes, workspaces and neighbourhoods in 2024 and beyond.

Our final article in the series features contributions from two  leasing advisors helping us market Island – a new net zero workspace that we’re creating with Greater Manchester Pension Fund. Here, Joe Rigby of CBRE, and Richard Lace of OBI, give us their perspective on the evolving landscape of office environments and the pivotal role that innovative workspaces play in aiding occupiers to attract and retain top talent.

In the wake of the pandemic, the landscape of work environments has been undergoing a profound transformation.

From large corporations to SMEs, businesses have been re-evaluating how they can optimise productivity for their staff. The concept of hybrid work, which offers employees the flexibility to work from anywhere while also emphasising the importance of in-person collaboration, has gained significant traction; “The initial shift to remote work during the pandemic seemed to suggest that employees could function effectively from the comfort of their homes,” says Joe Rigby of CBRE. “As time progressed, a prevailing sentiment emerged: while remote work has its advantages, there’s a fundamental need for people to come together, share ideas, and foster innovation, which are crucial for business growth – and that’s something we’re helping landlords with right now as they find great places that promote collaboration.”

Addressing this dual need for flexibility and collaboration poses a unique challenge for property developers like HBD who are reimagining workspaces that not only provide convenient accessibility but also offer amenities that inspire creativity and engagement. “The focus is shifting towards creating well-located office spaces equipped with high-quality amenities such as breakout, café, event and outdoor spaces”,” says OBI’s Richard Lace.” Forward-thinking developers like HBD understand such elements are essential for curating an environment where employees feel motivated and inspired to be present.”

Joe continues: “There’s a growing trend towards reducing office footprint while enhancing quality. Companies are willing to invest more in rent for premium spaces that promote productivity and attract top talent, rather than simply maximizing square footage. This trend is driving landlords to adapt their offerings to meet the evolving demands of occupiers.”

“We call it rightsizing,” adds Richard. “We’re seeing a rising trend of occupiers taking 20 to 50% less space. But what that does is free up income that they can instead spend on higher quality stock – buildings like Island.”

The pair say that collaboration between agents and landlords is key in this endeavour as they come together to develop amenity-driven, well-located office spaces that not only attract but also retain top talent. “There’s no one-size-fits-all all,” says Richard: “Generally though we are seeing occupiers demand space in a great location that encourages their colleagues to collaborate under one roof for most of the week. They’re acutely aware that they need to  invest in quality to ensure the environment is appealing enough to do this and encourages people to spend less time at home.”

Joe and Richard are both agents at Island, a scheme they say is a prime example of the evolving approach we see in today’s office market landscape.  Joe continues: “Island is a remarkable development because it prioritises occupier experience over commercial gains.

“The meticulously designed amenities, including a hotel-like ground floor arrival experience and a stunning roof terrace, demonstrate a commitment to fostering a conducive work environment. But what’s most admirable is that space could be let and monetised; instead HBD are handing it over to enhance the occupier experience.”

“Island’s strapline is that this is a place designed for ‘happy humans’,” adds Richard. “It’s a bold proposition but is underpinned by reality, and a space that prioritises bringing people together.”

Island also addresses occupiers’ ESG objectives, with strong sustainability credentials that  align with the values and requirements of todays occupiers. Richard continues: “The shift towards sustainability and ESG is the biggest single change in the property industry in the last 10 to 20 years.

“As with the demand for amenities, it’s interesting to see that the ESG demands are also being driven by the occupier. A lot of occupiers have their own agendas driven by their clients, their workforce and their investors – many of whom have money ringfenced for businesses with strong environmental credentials – so they need somewhere like Island to help them in their quest for operating more sustainably.”

“Ultimately we need more buildings like Island,” says Joe. “It’s a space that acknowledges the dynamics of the modern workplace – environments that accommodate remote work flexibility with the need for in-person collaboration.”

But just how do agents like Richard and Joe convey Island’s proposition to the end-user? Richard notes that it’s down to some great marketing and a shift in the brochure-led approach of old. “We’ve witnessed a shift in the way we market commercial properties.

“Until Island I can’t say I’d ever marketed a scheme with giraffes and goats in the collateral before but there’s a first for everything! The incredible illustrations by Klaus Kremmerz are a testament to how bold HBD is being at Island They’re a new, fun way of showing what this building will achieve and helps us get the right, likeminded people on board as occupiers.”

Island will complete in 2024, giving Manchester one of its first net zero workspaces and something Joe says, ticks all of the boxes outlined above. “As businesses adapt to the new post-Covid reality of workspace, the emphasis on well-located, amenity-rich office spaces becomes paramount.

“Collaborative efforts between stakeholders in the real estate sector are crucial in shaping the future of work environments that prioritize employee well-being, productivity, and sustainability. Island stands as a testament to this vision, heralding a new era of innovative and inspiring workspaces.”

Richard concludes. “The building’s been created on three pillars; people, planet and place , and HBD has fulfilled each one of those in abundance. It’s in a great, high-profile Manchester location, with high-quality design and spaces that will nurture a new working community, and HBD has pulled every lever possible to make it a truly sustainable icon. We can’t wait to see it complete.”

Find out more about Island here.