The way we work has changed forever. Fuelled both by advances in technology and increased demand for flexible working, the office market has been revolutionised over the past few years and there is no doubt that it is driving the UK’s commercial property sector.
If you are looking for a desk in London today, you have more than 1,500 flexible options to choose from. That number rises to around 5,000 across the country as a whole, making the UK one of the biggest markets globally for flexible workspace.
Once the preserve of the young, start-ups and freelancers, flexible workspace and shared office and meeting space is now the norm for companies of all shapes and sizes.
It is just as likely to be an executive from BP or Morgan Stanley walking through the doors of The Clubhouse as someone working for an innovative, early-stage fintech disruptor.
This diversity means the types of spaces on offer need to become more sophisticated. So what does this new world of work look like?
Modern workspace needs
For most companies, the main consideration when it comes to their property portfolio is not the office specification, location or facilities – it is the need to have flexibility. Because businesses are moving and adapting at a faster rate than ever before, no one can predict their headcount over the next few years. This is why the average lease length in London has fallen from 20 years to little more than four. Many fast-scaling SMEs or expanding global organisations are starting to consider space as a service that they can use and consume as and when needed.
As the market evolves, new ‘hybrid’ models are springing up in recognition of the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to modern workspace needs. What we offer at The Clubhouse is something that is much more agile and flexible than a typical co-working space. By providing what we believe is the smarter, more flexible alternative to an office, we fill the gap between meeting in a hotel lobby, members’ club or coffee shop on the one hand and working out of a co-working space or serviced office on the other.
The single aim that underpins everything we do is to make our members and their businesses more successful. We want to provide companies with everything they need to run their business, without the overhead of leasing an office and allowing them to do what they do best.
Primarily, The Clubhouse is a meeting solution but it is more than that – it is a great place to work and be productive. What sets us apart is everything that comes alongside. The dedicated team that attends to all our members’ needs and the range of benefits, partnerships, events and inspirational talks we arrange for our members make us more of a hospitality offering than a property play. As such, we are already seeing the boundaries blur between commercial property and hospitality – this trend will only continue as every member, tenant or occupier looks for best-in-class service and attention to detail.
While it is a competitive market, I believe there is still plenty of room for growth. In the early noughties, with the advent of video conferencing, people said that business travel would completely collapse. That did not happen, because people want to meet and be together – something the operators of flexible space facilitate. The best deals are done when people meet face to face and I do not think that will ever change.
This is true across almost all industries. Since we launched The Clubhouse in 2012, one of the things that has been most surprising has been the diversity of our members. There is a preconception that co-working spaces are full of young, innovative tech start-ups, but our demographic is very different to that. It is people in their mid-30s to mid-60s, who are part of the C-suite of their businesses. We have members from almost every sector under the sun.
For companies based out of town, having access to a place such as The Clubhouse is key to attracting, recruiting and retaining the best talent. If you are a big blue-chip company in the Thames Valley and you tell a new hire who is on £200,000 per year that they have to meet their clients in coffee shops around London, it probably will not make a good impression. In addition, not many companies have space for strategy days, board meetings, reviews, townhalls and presentations, so The Clubhouse forms part of the overall real estate solution for a business and helps to foster the culture and values that are increasingly important in today’s fast-paced world.
”There is a preconception that co-working spaces are full of young, innovative tech start-ups, but our demographic is people in their mid-30s to mid-60s, who are part of the C-suite of their businesses. We have members from almost every sector under the sun”
Data will also be vital in shaping the next generation of flexible workspace. We are not a serviced office or co-working space where each day the same people walk in at 9am and leave at 6pm. Instead, we have a high footfall of members with differing needs, which makes for a vibrant and dynamic atmosphere. However, it also means that we need to ensure we understand our members and how they use our spaces.
We use data and analytics to analyse and predict how people use our spaces, how often they visit, their visit length, how many Clubhouse locations they use, guest and visitor numbers, and occupancy rates of meeting rooms. This informs the design of future Clubhouses.
As the market for flexible space continues to grow, what needs to remain the same is the relentless focus on the customer and serving their needs, not designing space and wondering how it will be used.
The Clubhouse is London’s leading business members’ club, offering innovative, design-led flexible meeting and workspaces across four locations in central London.
At The Clubhouse our aim is simple: to make our members and their businesses more successful.
PW Perspectives: industry responds to changing needs
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Flexible workspaces work best with customer focus