Predictions for the Office in 2024
Throughout January, there has been ongoing reflections on the flexible workspace market during 2023, and more so discussion on what’s to come for the sector during 2024.
Natasha Guerra (pictured below), CEO of Flexible Space Association member Runway East, has taken a look at what might be in store for offices throughout this new year.
2023 saw a continuation of the major changes in routine, flexibility and eco-centricity that are taking place in the office industry. The increased popularity of flexible offices has reflected a ‘new normal’ in what employees expect from their place of work. At the same time WeWork, once the poster-child of the flexible revolution, has shown clear signs that its growth model may have been too good to be true after all.
We all know that demand for flex is going to continue to grow over the next 12 months, now that hybrid working has become an expectation rather than a perk, but where else does the flexible office market go? In addition to continuous growth in the sector, here are my predictions about how the flex market could shift in 2024.
Offices Get Smaller… But Nicer
This year we’re already reading headlines of corporates downsizing their office space – most recently it was HSBC planning to leave Canary Wharf to take a much smaller space in the City of London. With almost 40% of Brits working from home at least some of the time, companies just don’t need as many desks – certainly not one per employee which enables them to get smaller sites but nicer offices.
As part of ‘The Great Downsize’, flexible space has become even more popular and will continue to do so in 2024. Companies don’t want to be paying per sq.ft., they just want to pay for space that increases productivity.
By moving to flex they still get meeting rooms and breakout spaces, but instead they’re paying for the number of desks they need on a daily basis rather than the number of employees on their books. The reduced cost of this means that they can put remaining spend into an office that their employees actually want to come to.
High Street Co-Working
With a huge amount of uncertainty in theretail sphere and more shops closing in 2023 due to business rates and inflation, there is a high volume of space coming back to market with no clear strategy about what will happen to it. Landlords may even have had a number of retailers on their portfolio fail and be looking for a new strategy for their shop-front space.
2024 may be the year we see flexible officespace moving from business districts and 100k+ sqft office buildings to under 20,000 sq ft high street units with active ground floor frontage. This is already happening and we have done this in our Soho location – but this was historically down to demand for media-centric locations in central London. This year, with a trend towards small but nicer offices, I think we will see a flurry open across British high streets.
We are seeing our peers at Homework Workspace, Patch and Oru do just this, especially as companies are trying to find ways to keep office attendance high from employees who are becoming more reluctant to commute.
Carbon Footprint Transparency
2024 will undoubtedly be the year that carbon footprint transparency sweeps across the flex office industry, as noted by CBRE in their 2023 market report.
It’s one of the most common requests we get from members at Runway East, so we’re building a tool to make it easy for them to find out the emissions from their own office – I’m confident that we’re not the only operators working on this either.
Helping companies to figure out their individual emissions means one fewer thing for them to think about when strategising an improvement to their environmental impact. This gives them space to focus on reducing their impact rather than spending all of their time figuring out the impact in the first place.
A bonus prediction: Will we see VR Offices this year?
Will 2024 be the year that companies ditch physical desks and chairs entirely in favour of computer generated offices. Team meetings attended remotely by everyone wearing expensive VR headsets? Your desktop beamed to you via augmented reality glasses?
Several companies have tried and failed to launch this vision, from Google with the famed Google Glass in 2014, to Meta, whose flagship ‘Horizon Worlds’ virtual reality space was last reported as having just 38 regular users.
But don’t forget, the iPhone wasn’t the first tablet style phone – that was the IBM Simon, in 1994. Major platform shifts in the way we interact with the world take time, and this year Apple are aiming to release their own Augmented Reality glasses, the Apple Vision Pro, with glossy videos showing users working without a laptop in sight.
A platform shift like this would pose both problems and opportunities for the flex market, as the ways that companies use offices would change completely, possibly rendering physical desks, chairs and meeting rooms redundant.
Conclusions: The Future of Office Working
Whatever 2024 has in store, there’s no doubt that the traditional office model is on thedecline as companies and employees look forways to make their workplace work for them. With around a fifth of UK landlords currently reporting that flex makes up 10% of their office portfolios, the industry is presenting a clear response to this.
Whether it’s bringing the office closer to home, creating an office perfect for a hybrid lifestyle or making it simpler to track your sustainability goals, flexible offices are still at the forefront of this change.
30 January 2024
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