The office sector over the last century has benefited from urbanisation, with increasing tenant demand pegged to limited supply. Ultimately, this has led to a near-constant robust market with short cyclical pull-backs.
Now, as people choose to work from ‘anywhere’, the sector needs to win people back to the workplace.
One major wave of disruption was the rise of serviced offices and co-working. While serviced offices surfaced in the 1980s, the co-working concept rose from the ashes of the global financial crisis as newfound entrepreneurs and small businesses looked for accessible, design-led space on flexible terms.
Now, the pandemic will force commercial real estate to adapt once again. WeWork raised the bar, progressing the way we work through its provision of modern, design-led space. However, with global scale came standardisation, which over time both benefited and harmed its loyal following.
Similarly, the consistent output of big-box branded hotels was met with consistent expectations from travellers of all types. However, in recent times, travellers have sought more bespoke, richer stays – encouraging the likes of Airbnb to deliver an experience built around the traveller looking for more than just a standardised room.
Could now be the time for the office industry’s Airbnb moment? SMEs expectations from what their space needs to deliver in a post-Covid world will rule out both a standardised big-box product and a DIY lease where they are expected to figure it all out on their own.
Tenants want to determine where they want to work, how that space is designed and crucially what layers of service can be bolted on to maximise their businesses’ experience over one to five years within those four walls. To date, there has not been a seamless end-to-end experience that combines these three elements.
The path is set for creating an end-to-end experience for tenants, where they end up with a product built around their needs. Landlords, agents and operators can embrace this to deliver the office product that carries us for the next decade and beyond.
Steve Coulson is founder and chief executive of Kitt