Cardiff property consultant warns flexible workspace trend coming to South Wales

The demand for flexible workspace is set to accelerate as over two thirds of global corporates
plan to increase their use of flexible co-working and collaborative space over the next three
years, according to new research from Knight Frank.

Knight Frank’s (Y)OUR SPACE report surveys senior executives at 120 global
companies which collectively employ in excess of 3.5 million people worldwide and occupy an
estimated 233 million sq ft of office space, equivalent to the total amount of office space in
Central London.

The research shows global corporates intend to operate increasingly from flexible, serviced
and co-working spaces, which create a more collaborative working environment and offer the
freedom to expand and contract quickly according to market conditions.

Today, despite the proliferation of co-working and serviced office operators the majority of
global corporates occupy office space on a traditional lease model. Two thirds of companies
surveyed by Knight Frank reported that co-working, serviced and flexible office space comprise
5% or less of their current office space. A small minority, less than 7%, said that flexible
workspace exceeds a fifth of their total workspace.

So is this something that South Wales commercial property owners should be concerned about?  It seems that so far in places like Cardiff, the shift is still somewhat subtle.

Mark Sutton, Office Agency Partner at Knight Frank Cardiff’s Office

“We are yet to see the influence of co-working operators in Cardiff that have featured significantly in main stream office buildings around the UK – the flexible workspace offering in the city centre is still predominantly covered by serviced office providers.

<“What is clear is that businesses are seeing their office as a customer-centric space aligned to their business needs and occupiers are focusing on the amenity-rich offer required to capture and retain the best talent. With companies often needing to move quickly to capitalise on contract driven opportunities, all-inclusive packages and pre-fitted space will be important in ensuring that Cardiff is able to capture all possible occupier interest.”

However, researchers at Knight Frank discovered that the proportion of flexible space within
companies’ portfolios is set to increase dramatically. Over two thirds, 69%, of global corporates
plan to increase their utilisation of co-working spaces, and 80% expect to grow the amount of
collaborative space they use over the next three years.

Furthermore, almost half, 44%, stated that flexible space will constitute up to a fifth of all office
space in the next three years. An additional 16% estimated that as much as half of their
workspace globally would be flexible space within the same time period.

This trend will hit South Wales so it is worth being prepared.

Over half of companies (55%) identified increased flexibility as the main driver of this change,
with a significant proportion (11%) stating that the sense of community fostered among
workers was the key benefit. A further 11% stated that the greater speed to becoming
operational was the primary reason for selecting co-working or serviced office space ahead of
more conventional office space.

The overwhelming majority of respondents, 75%, stated that personal productivity linked to
wellbeing and happiness, would increase as they shift towards a new flexible and collaborative
model of occupancy that is more in keeping with today’s business structures and working
styles.

Dr Lee Elliott, Global Head of Occupier Research at Knight Frank said:

“This research underlines that a decade of global economic uncertainty has reshaped how many of the
world’s largest companies view workspace.

“Shorter business planning horizons, together with the emergence of new, more agile
corporate structures has driven demand for flexible space which enables companies to react
to change quickly.

“While co-working and serviced office operators have grown rapidly over the past five years,
driven largely by start-ups and the freelance economy, this is only the tip of the iceberg with
latent demand from global companies set to emerge over the next three years.”

William Beardmore-Gray, Global Head of Occupier Services and Commercial Agency at
Knight Frank
said:

“The demand for flexibility is the single biggest threat – and opportunity –
to owners of office space. The recent boom in co-working is indicative of a structural change
within commercial real estate whereby companies desire space that is flexible, highly serviced
and aligned within the realities of doing business in an age of disruption. Some co-working
operators have capitalised on this already, but it is imperative that owners and developers
react to the new reality where customer is king.”

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