Serviced Offices in a Post-Lockdown World

2021 has been a year of contrasts- from last winter’s lockdown to ‘back to work’. Having transitioned out of lockdown, we look at the growing role of serviced offices in providing solutions to post-lockdown working.

We’ve always run an innovative business. We have been around since the financial crisis of 2008 pushed businesses toward flexible working space that didn’t require long leases. We’ve never stopped looking for ways to increase flexibility. Of course, never is adaptability and agility more important than in a crisis. Because we see alternatives to the standard office set-up, we know how to help clients change their business models, provide more suitable space to their employees and upgrade their overall office experience.

Nobody ever thought we’d see it, but recently even some huge companies- the social media giants and banks- have given up the idea of having all employees in a single space. They are looking for new space solutions and this has included home-working. It’s been a learning curve for all involved with big changes for all those employees who never before had a choice of where to carry out their work, other than in one big office, five days a week. However, despite the benefits of home-working, many have struggled with the challenges of children, noise, distraction, loneliness, lack of productivity and real dynamic interaction…..and (guilty here too), plain old overeating! It’s also been acknowledged that mental health often suffered for those stuck at home.

There are huge and life-affirming pluses of having a physical place to come and work each day. It’s an escape from the loneliness and monotony of home working. Office life provides a hub for genuinely exciting work-centred interaction. We love to experience the brainstorming, the bouncing-off of ideas, the way an overheard grumble over a desk can lead to a helpful solution, or that useful insider information offered by a colleague. We’ve all missed it. Doing this safely is where serviced offices like ours come in, willing to work with clients to create the exact spaces they need, with adequate social distancing and good hygiene practices.

At the same time, there will be those still shielding or just uncomfortable in any working environment outside their own home for some time to come, and so home working will continue. It is all part of a complex new situation.

When people think of serviced office users they tend to think of the ‘small business people’ : start-ups, or local accountants, small marketing, importing or recruitment companies, and independent financial advisors. We certainly have plenty of those here as clients! But interestingly, recently we’ve had specific interest from big businesses seeking to set up ‘hubs’ of co-working space outside of their main city offices. Being within commuting distance of London as well as Reading, we are ideally placed to offer offices to employees close to their homes. It’s a solution that cuts out the long commutes that people are now less willing to do. It’s also very cost-effective for bigger companies who don’t need everybody in one building anymore.

We have seen our clients’ needs change. Some companies have left us, but we’ve been incredibly busy with new ones joining- to the extent that we have had to partition new offices to accommodate the demand. We also have increased interest in our new hotdesking room at Innovation House. With hotdesking, we’re welcoming people who are either self-employed or employees who work from home some days a week. What they have in common is that, for whatever reason, they find it hard to be productive working in a home environment. And of course, meeting room hire is back!

The result of all of this, going into 2022, is a hybrid working environment for companies and the individuals who work for them. The idea of a purposefully distributed workspace is winning out. A mix of remote and physical working environments will triumph. Serviced offices will be and remain a crucial and essential part of that picture.

Luke Bolt, our Managing Director summarises: “In our industry, we’ve observed a long-term trend for companies to avoid long leases and heavy financial commitments involving property, much preferring the type of flexible agreement we offer through our serviced offices. Right now, with the unique circumstances of Covid and all the uncertainty, this trend is accelerating faster, and pushing companies into decisive action, even ones that never considered our services before. Serviced offices, innovative as ever, will play a huge role in the new hybrid working environment. Given what we’ve already seen in terms of new business, this is only going to continue at a brisk pace throughout 2022 and into the future”.

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