When we launched our office space consultancy, we had a simple goal in place – to help businesses of all sizes find the perfect office space.
We would help a company compare the whole office space market, wherever they were in the UK, and help them acquire the perfect workspace. We would help negotiate the very best deal and create awareness of any special promotional offers.
And we would never charge a fee for our services because we would receive a fee from the landlord or office space company, once a deal was completed.
We debated for a long time about what we should call ourselves because, as had been the case for a long time, companies had been seeking more flexibility in their commercial real estate arrangements and were moving away from traditional office rental models.
A growing number of businesses were slowly but surely moving away from renting offices in the conventional ways and were looking at alternative forms of occupational agreement.
There had been a move towards serviced offices, managed offices, coworking spaces and other flexibly leased office space options.
Whilst those within the industry, such as office agents and office brokers, were aware of the various options, we knew that these workspace options were not widely known, at that stage.
Following our pre-launch research, we knew that those seeking a workspace solution for their business would often Google ‘rent offices’ to start their office search journey.
Our deeper research found variants of this keyword such as:
- ‘Rent offices near me’
- ‘Offices to rent’
- ‘What is the best way to rent an office?’
- ‘Office spaces to rent’
- ‘What is the procedure for renting office space?’
And so on.
There were many other iterations of these search terms but the most common terms in the search for a business space solution were ‘rent’ and ‘office’.
This was a slight dilemma for us.
We knew that the technical definition of rent, or more specifically ‘market rent’, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), is:
‘The estimated amount for which an interest in real property should be leased on the valuation date between a willing lessor and a willing lessee on appropriate lease terms in an arm’s length transaction, after proper marketing and where the parties had acted knowledgeably, prudently and without compulsion.’
And the technical definition of an office, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is:
‘A room, set of rooms, or building used as a place for commercial, professional, or bureaucratic work.’
We knew that searching for offices to rent was absolutely correct if the company was looking for a standard office space to rent and was intending to enter into a leasehold agreement.
However, we knew that this wasn’t what every company wanted or needed.
Ultimately, we decided that, because so many companies would start their workspace searches with these keywords, we would name ourselves ‘Rent Offices’ so that we could then start a conversation.
It would then be our obligation to advise office searchers that there are many ways to occupy office space, and there was a growing variation in the type, shape, format, location amd style of an office or workspace, and there was a growing range of ameneities, facilities and services that could be included within an occupational agreement.
Serviced offices were first incepted over four decades ago – they were ideal for startup companies or businesses seeking temporary office space. They were a turnkey office space solution that was all-inclusive and did not have any onerous terms attached.
These all-inclusive ‘plug-and-play’ workspace options were termed ‘easy in and easy out’ because the occupier could often sign an agreement and move in and start working within the space of a few days. The tenancy agreements were short-form licences so many companies didn’t feel the need to employ a solicitor or enter into lengthy negotiations.
These licences that could be described by some as short term, low obligation leases allowed the occupier to upsize or downsize their footprint by moving into a smaller or larger office suite with ease, and the exit procedure was equally efficient – without the need for lengthy dilapidations negotiations.
Various forms of coworking had also been in existence for several decades, too. And, effectively, were arrangements whereby an individual could use a desk within a communal or shared office space.
Some might say that libraries were the first coworking spaces, and Silicon Valley may claim that hackathons more closely represent what we now describe as coworking.
There are many theories about who can own the original concept of coworking – some will say it is the concept of individuals working on their own tasks under the same roof, some will say that it is the concept of individuals working collaboratively.
There were other forms of ‘coworking’ models, too, where individuals, due to the power of the internet, didn’t need to be under the same roof and could be in their own homes yet worked collaboratively on the same task.
These models date back to the 1990s and are not dissimilar to what is being termed ‘hybrid working’ within a ‘hub and spoke model’, in the 2020s.
These are all workplace related terms that have become significantly more mainstream in the 2020s.
There are various nuances within and between various products within the flexible workspace industry – that effectively cover every form of businesses space solution that is not a rented office space.
The events of the Great Recession of 2008 led to a great shift in the move away from rented or leased office space. Companies around the world collectively had to make millions of job roles redundant and this left companies exposed and paying rent for empty office spaces.
As the world recovered from the financial crisis, businesses increasingly sought out recession proof office space solutions that would shield them against unforeseen sub-optimal economic events in the future.
Office leases of 5, 10 or more years with break options that were agreed in good economic times, no longer looked optimal.
This led to a mass movement towards flexible office space solutions. The industry grew at a fast pace and saw newcomers such as WeWork become household names.
Once seen as a somewhat unfashionable and short-term or temporary workspace solution, flexible offices became ‘cool’ in the 2010s.
We developed more and more relationships with those within the flexible workspace, or flex space, industry and, in 2021, we partnered with The Office Providers – an office space consultancy that works with the majority of office providers and operators in the UK and worldwide.
They are a firm that was established in 2009 and they are regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. They provide consultancy services to businesses looking to rent office space on traditional leasehold terms and they advise on lease renewals, rent reviews and other commercial property management issues.
They also broker access to all office and flexible workspace providers in all locations globally and have made it their mission, as their tagline states, to add ‘transparency to the flexible office space market’.
Since Covid-19, the company has been focused on helping businesses incorporate flexible working into their operations models via hybrid workplace models.
As well as providing their usual services to businesses searching for headquarter offices in city centres and in satellite office space locations such as out-of-town suburban business parks and other locations.
Due to the holistic toolkit of services that The Office Providers deliver, we feel that this partnership is perfectly synergistic and will ultimately be additive for our clients.
And, most importantly, our services remain completely FREE as always.
Following the events of 2020 and 2021, it is, of course, a great question as to whether companies still rent offices in the 2020s?
Many companies still do. There will always be a conventional office space market whereby tenants enter into a leasehold agreement and rent space for their business from a landlord.
But the way that the world works and use offices is changing markedly.
If the Great Recession of 2008 was a catalyst in the move towards flexible business space solutions, the events of 2020 and 2021 were another major accelerant.
During the lockdown periods, companies were forced to let their employees work from home – once seen as some sort of work benefit or perk, employers now needed their staff to work from their home offices, spare bedrooms or kitchen tables.
Remote working allowed many businesses to survive and saved many jobs which was an absolute positive, however, many businesses had to continue to pay rent for offices that they were not using.
This has led to a dilemma for many businesses. Of course, businesses already knew about flexible working, many had experimented with it – some had chosen to adopt it already and some had not.
What was right for one company was not right for another.
What was agreed, though, was that the way businesses would work in the future was going to change.
Of course, the way we work has always evolved, but in the same way that Covid accelerated many other trends, it will accelerate the move the already in-train movement towards the use of flexible workspaces for businesses of all sizes, from startups to multinational corporations.
In 2018, WeWork announced that 22% of Fortune 500 companies held corporate office and co-working memberships with them.
In 2021, companies including Standard Chartered and NTT announced corporate coworking membership arrangements with IWG.
IWG operate brands including Regus and Spaces, and staff at these multinational companies will be granted access to desk spaces in more than 3,300 worldwide business centres.
In June 2021, IWG’s CEO, Mark Dixon, announced that there were over a million other employee memberships in the pipeline.
Other large companies such as Apple announced that they would allow their staff to work from home some of the time and that they just had to come into the office on certain days of the week.
Not all companies agree with this type of operations model and Amazon and Netflix, for instance, wanted their staff to return to the office as soon as possible.
The mainstream press will usually only write articles about large companies but if we see the differences in sentiment about the future of work between a handful of the household name companies, we can easily ascertain the level of uncertainty amongst the millions of other businesses in the world.
The demands from office occupiers are changing and the flexible workspace industry has adapted at lightning speed to accommodate these new demands.
The office space and other forms of workspaces that they provide are Covid-safe and Covid-compliant – the spacing densities have been adapted, new cleaning protocols have been implemented, partitioning and shields have been installed, and many other actions have been taken.
The industry has also changed the type of products that they offer – they now provide office space for distributed teams, offices near home for tasks that cannot be carried out at home but also reduce commutes, offices in business parks with good car parking facilities, and workspaces that elicit collaboration and social interaction – something that has been dearly missed by people working at home.
The office searches in the search engines that we are now seeing look more like:
- ‘Can we rent office space for 3 days a week?’
- ‘What are office time shares?’
- ‘What are day office rentals?’
- ‘Can we sign a temporary office lease while we work out our long-term plans?’
- ‘Is renting the only way to occupy an office?’
So, maybe not as many companies will start the conversation with ‘rent offices’ in the 2020s and that’s OK because we’ve got a whole lot more to talk about.
If you would like to discuss the wide range of workspace options that are available to your business in the 2020s, please just get in touch and we will be delighted to help.