Earlier this month, Bruntwood’s Director of Sales, Andrew Butterworth spoke at the 28th BCA Conference in London, alongside a line-up of expert speakers. The conference, ‘Your Business, Your Brand, Your Future', focused on the changing shape of flexible workspace and its place in the wider commercial property market.
The conference was opened by Jennifer Brooke, Executive Director of the BCA. When Jennifer took over responsibility at BCA, the focus was on corporate businesses. “Tiny space was carved out for non-conventional serviced operators. Fast forward to today and we’re on an upward curve, and our industry’s future is one of expansion and innovation” explained Jennifer.
As the UK is home to 5.5 million small businesses, it is now these companies, along with medium-sized businesses, must now be given the support they need to grow. Flexible workspaces are a key component in this, with spaces now being designed to help facilitate connections, with office buildings providing space for customers and companies to host events, workshops, meetings and meet-ups.
Buildings across the Bruntwood portfolio are creating spaces just like these, allowing customers to connect, build relationships, and support one another to grow. Hosting customer events in our lounges, for example, allows businesses to find out more about their neighbours. Whether it’s visiting a workshop and finding their next marketing agency for a big campaign, or hanging out at after work drinks and meeting a yoga buddy, these business to business relationships are helping to build vibrant communities for businesses to thrive.
This rising need for flexible workspace is also being impacted by the digitisation of the UK’s workforce. Companies and their employees want the freedom to move around, whether it’s to work from different environments depending on what they’re working on at the time, or if it’s to be with their customers. This ability to be agile makes it easier for small businesses to move into new markets and speed up their growth.
The evolution of technology and our changes in behavior are transforming the way we access knowledge and data, as we’re now capable of accessing resources that were previously unavailable to us. Office space providers are able to use to this information to improve connectivity in buildings.
Antony Slumbers, founder of Estates Today, discussed digital innovation in the current workplace, explaining the way work is changing. Previously, what Slumbers refers to as ‘old work’, was based on repetitive, repeatable tasks that we are now able to automate; this leaves humans free to concentrate on ‘new work’. The latter uses our creative strengths and ability to make judgments and it is vital that workspace is continuously adapted to accommodate this way of working. As an office space provider, the more we understand our customers’ businesses, the more we can develop and design spaces to optimise their needs and productivity.
Finally, workspaces must focus more and more on the wellbeing of customers. Creating an office environment which stimulates a productive and health state of mind is crucial. This can be as simple as encouraging movement around the office (from desk, to kitchen, to breakout spaces) to introducing biophilia into the aesthetic design of the space.
Andrew summed up the day by referencing the overriding belief that flexibleworkspace has become an “invaluable, exciting and inextricable part of commercial property”. Not long ago flexible space was just a small part of the real estate market, whereas now it’s attracting more investment, more demand, and more interest than ever before. Flexible space isn’t restricted by shape - it is as agile as the businesses that use it, and the future possibilities are limitless.