Building for Business: Businesses are demanding more from commercial property
For architects and designers, the idea that buildings can influence the wellbeing and productivity of their occupants is far from new.For architects and designers, the idea that buildings can influence the wellbeing and productivity of their occupants is far from new.
However it is only recently that companies have started to demand more from their offices than desk space and meeting rooms. Partly as a result of technology and the increased availability of work place data, companies and workers are increasingly aware that the working environment and productivity and wellbeing are inextricably linked. Consequently, if property developers and building owners want to let space to quality tenants, there is now an expectation to provide high-end facilities and amenities as the office building in which a company is based is now synonymous with its brand and major factor in attracting talent.
In 2014, the World Green Building Council released a report entitled Health, Wellbeing & Productivity in Offices, which included overwhelming evidence demonstrating that the design of an office building impacts the health, wellbeing and productivity of its occupants. The availability of exercise-related spaces-facilities such as high-quality gyms, facilities for cyclists such as bicycle storage, and green spaces- as well as building location and other amenities were all considered important factors in assessing the quality of a working environment. Good indoor air quality, thermal comfort, inspiring views, daylight, good acoustics, look and feel all play a crucial role in creating a healthy, productive workplace.
Increasingly, companies aim to maximise the return on their human capital by providing workspaces that promote high levels of employee satisfaction, in order to attract the best staff and to promote the company brand. The European Occupier Survey polls real estate decision-makers at 120 global corporations. The 2015/206 survey revealed that 65% of companies look out for amenities-rich real estate locations whilst 46% recognise talent availability as a key factor behind location decision. Whereas around five years ago, 92% of companies surveyed for the EOS were implementing a programme of a reals estate cost saving, there is now a growing recognition that the workplace must provide a high quality experience to entice and retain staff. It is therefore not surprising 74% of companies surveyed report having implemented a wellness programme.
It is clear that the relationship between people and the building in which they are working is vital. Technology and changing lifestyles have driven a massive shift I what businesses expect from their workplaces. Business is no longer conducted as set hours, from a swivel chair behind a fixed desk. If businesses want to attract the best staff, a modern office environment with a strong on-site amenities, such as treatment rooms or coffee houses, enabling staff to work flexibly and lead a healthy, happy and sociable lifestyle is essential.
This is particularly true of businesses looking to attract skilled accounting and financing staff. Accounting jobs were found by the Manpower Group to be the seventh most difficult to fill in 2015, with employers citing a lack of available applicants as the most common reason. In order to attract skilled workers from this small pool of in-demand accountancy professionals, it is essential that businesses are able to offer attractive working environments and on-site facilities- and it falls to the office buildings to deliver.
Commercial office spaces must respond to the changing demands of companies and their existing and potential employees by upping their game considerably. In the UK, the reputation of regional cities, such as Birmingham, as prime business locations is pulling in a growing number of high-calibre workers and business to its central commercial district. HSBS and Deutsche Bank are just two examples of major businesses that might traditionally have favoured London, but have chosen Birmingham.
But moves such as these are currently the exception to the norm-not because businesses do not want to expand into regions, but because appropriate office space is uncommon. If the Midlands truly wishes to rival London as a business destination, it may need to evolve its commercial property offering. Major international businesses need world-class offices with correspondingly world-class facilities and large floor plates. To avoid falling flat expectations, commercial property must reflect, and meet the demands of, an increasingly talented workforce and the major businesses that employ them.