Jack Mason - Inc & Co - serviced offices post lockdown

July 14, 2020

A bright future for serviced offices post lockdown

COVID-19 is undoubtedly one of the biggest health, economic and humanitarian global challenges faced in a generation. However, as we start to lift our heads above the parapet of lockdown and start building the ‘new normal’, we take some new learnings with us. Not least the way we use office space. Here’s why serviced offices are about to start a brand-new era post lockdown, as they offer many solutions for businesses to work in a different way.

Serviced offices post lockdown offer flexibility and efficiency

The pandemic shows that for many office workers, remote working is not only possible but preferable to commuting to the office every day. As lockdowns ease around the world, the majority of office workers want to continue remote working. For some this is about caution around an unpredictable virus, and for others for convenience.

Either way, COVID-19 has accelerated the slow burner trend of remote working into a suddenly feasible future. Does this mean the office is dead? Definitely not. But it will work differently. Serviced offices offer the perfect mix of flexibility, collaboration and wellness that we all need as we find a way to get back to some kind of normal.

As employees increasingly choose where and how they want to work, the office must evolve to work alongside remote working, providing a safe space and a strong infrastructure. Companies now need bigger spaces to allow for social distancing, access to a greater number of outdoor spaces, and the flexibility offered by serviced offices.

Adapting to the serviced office model

Our first acquisition at Inc & Co Property was Prospect Business Centres, which is coming under our group brand. With a focus on adapting to changing customer needs, we are working on ways to offer the kind of serviced spaces that people now want. This kind of flexible, adaptable, adjustable office space is at the heart of the serviced office trend that was already gaining ground before COVID-19. Now pushed to the top if the list, the underlying trends of serviced office co-working are branching out towards the mainstream.

Since we launched Inc & Co Property during the Covid-19 crisis, we have been hard at work launching our exciting new flexible serviced offices brand across our eight buildings, which I am excited to tell you first, will be called, incspaces. With a focus on adapting to changing customer needs, we’re working on ways to offer the kind of working spaces that people now want.

This type of flexible, adaptable, adjustable office space is at the heart of the flexible serviced office trend slowly gaining ground before COVID-19. Now pushed to the top of the list, the underlying trends of flexible working spaces are branching out towards the mainstream.

A hybrid workplace is emerging from lockdown, with companies rolling out a purposefully distributed work strategy. A mix of remote and physical working, flexible workspaces and taking advantage of the flexibility of serviced office space will all play an important role in this transition out of lockdown and into global economic recovery.

COVID-19 has accelerated several trends. Space-as-a-service was already a sector operating at high levels of innovation. And now to work in the post-lockdown world, workspace operators will need to change business models, upgrade spaces and launch new businesses.

Serviced offices post lockdown offer agility and flexibility

Agility and flexibility are more important during times of crisis than normal times. In some distinct ways, there is a parallel between the economic hit we’re taking due to COVID-19 and the economic environment during the financial crisis in 2008. Back then, people began to demand flexible spaces that didn’t need long leases. Flexibility was necessary precisely because the future was uncertain.

And it’s the same in 2020, with the added challenge of the complexity demanded from a serviced office model. Flexibility and co-working are short-term solutions, but with this specific crisis going into the medium and long-term too, the cost of running an office space has just increased massively due to the pandemic. This is going to push organisations that previously wouldn’t have considered switching to space as a service.

With major businesses such as Barclays and Twitter saying they will not return their whole workforce back to a single building, there appears to be a widespread shift in attitude towards a distributed work model. It’s also worth remembering that working from home is not for everyone. We may have all participated in the world’s biggest experiment on remote working, and for every employee who finds it ideal, there are others that don’t. Parents still need to work away from their children, for example. Pre-COVID most people didn’t have the choice of where to work, or the chance to find out what suits them best. But now they know.

Over the last six years, flexible working has been a driver for individuals but not for businesses. Now, many are fully on board too. Businesses such as Facebook have essentially given their workforce the green light to work from home for as long as they want. But the initial predictions at the start of lockdown that suggested the world might be ditching offices for good, will just not happen.

The new world of work will be about flexibility and a mix of office and remote working. It’s clear that while managers used to worry about productivity levels when employees work from home, it’s engagement that stands out as the problem area. Organisations need to completely redefine communication and engagement to ensure there is the kind of connectivity they need.

Boosting mental health and wellbeing using serviced offices post lockdown

A physical workplace is also vital to fight another epidemic – that of loneliness. Mass working from home has highlighted this problem. And it is a problem. If we think about why serviced offices began, it was driven by people who wanted flexible office space with all the expected benefits.

Lockdown has exacerbated the problem of loneliness and pushed it to new heights. Creating a flexible working model using serviced offices and remote working could be the way to head off a mental health crisis at the pass. Depression and anxiety already accounted for vast numbers of sick days before the pandemic. Working from home has made this worse. We shouldn’t underestimate the toll this extended crisis is taking on people’s mental health.

Serviced office spaces will focus on health and safety measures to allow for physical distancing and limited occupancy both on an individual and company level. Outdoor spaces will become increasingly important and workspaces will be more human centred. In many ways, workspaces will be healthier than before the pandemic. Both operators and individuals will be part of the drive to keep spaces as safe as possible. After all, we’re all in this together.

People are going to value premium office space more than ever before. And this includes creating a psychologically healthy solution. Employees need to feel comfortable going back to an office, and by combining flexible workspaces and remote working, I think this will happen. We’re looking at a mix of physical and digital working, with hybrid meetings and a smaller scale of work, at least in the immediate future.

However, there’s no doubt that flexible serviced offices will continue to be central to innovation and progress. Serviced offices deliver innovative, flexible and better ways to work, whether remotely or in an office space, and its future looks promising.

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