Flexible Offices: Investment trends and treating occupiers as customers

A panel discussion on 15 October at MIPIMUK with representatives from Fifth Wall, Gecina, HotDeskPlus, Knotel and Orms. Some thoughts and observations:

  • Introducing hospitality, amenity and technology into the workplace, the latter allowing people to work in many different kinds of environments.
  • Reinventing the workplace to foster collaboration. Being able to work from virtually anywhere with a laptop, headphones and wifi, office space is no longer needed for the desk itself…but for socializing.
  • For millennials (and possibly for many people?) compensation has become less important than before, and workplace environment has risen in importance and become a key factor in job choice.
  • More attention is being paid to the quality of the environment to boost productivity – nature light, fresh air, exterior breakout spaces, differentiated spaces at the individual or small group level and natural materials.
  • Gecina, the biggest European Reit, creating YouFirst, focusing on the individual as customer, and curating the experience…not sure how this is unique but it seems to represent a shift in emphasis…focussing beyond bricks and mortar.
  • Offering tenants a great degree of flexibility, especially in terms of lease length, is a great idea in theory as long as there is a bouyant market and reasonable demand but what happens in a significant downturn. It seems like the landlord needs a low interest rate environment, low leverage and a large and diverse portfolio to ride out a period of recession