“We can’t control the wifi”; “the coffee machine always breaks, so everyone has to be their own barista”; “either my PA is always getting up and down to answer the door or one of the team is”.
These are just some of the laments we’ve heard recently from a series of fast-growing enterprises who are dissatisfied with their current office space and are looking for something more suited to their needs.
I’m referring to a gap in the market we have identified at British Land that will fulfil the needs of two key groups: the first includes fast-growing businesses employing between 20 and 70 people that may have outgrown a co-working space and that are yearning for an all-in, fully serviced new home so they can concentrate on their core business; the second concerns larger customers, from tech groups and media organisations to law firms and banks, which are seeking additional short-term space for important projects for which they have been asked to scale up rapidly.
So, on Tuesday, we launched Storey, a flexible workspace concept that we first flagged up at the time of our full-year results in May.
It will provide bespoke space for fast-growing and established companies on our Broadgate, Paddington Central and Regent’s Place campuses in London and will be fully serviced by our asset management arm Broadgate Estates.
We believe these neighbourhoods are ideal for Storey because they already accommodate successful businesses that need to grow, and because flexible workspace will also add to a mix that now includes retail, leisure, office space and, in some cases, residential.
Fundamental change to London offices
This is not to say that British Land customers won’t continue to want to lease an office building for 15 years with traditional five-yearly rent reviews. That arrangement still works well for both property owner and customer, giving security for both sides.
The issue is that since the global financial crisis, the London office market has changed more fundamentally than at any time since the 1980s ‘big bang’, and we are satisfying a large new area of demand.
At least 40% of the UK workforce will soon be freelancers
Multiple studies say that at least 40% of the UK workforce will be freelancers in the next few years, and whether these are project teams at media groups or fintech experts at banks, we want to be able to accommodate their needs.
The needs of the 20 to 70 employee companies we are seeking to house are summed up in a report published by Storey this week, ‘Unlocking SME office productivity’, which examines how a sector that contributes £217bn a year to the UK economy is affected by its office environment.
Of the 500 SME decision-makers Storey spoke to, most were frustrated with their current office space, with 69% agreeing that improving the design and layout of their office would significantly improve productivity in their business.
More than a third of those polled are embarrassed when clients visit their offices, and 37% believe they are losing out on attracting the best talent due to the state of their workplace.
For the sake of the companies quoted earlier on, which bemoan their faulty wifi, the broken coffee machine and the wasted time spent answering the door, we hope that Storey can play its part in helping its customers continue to grow.