Office market update

Wallace House, Shire Park Welwyn

The office market remains in something of a state of flux, although wild predications that we could be witnessing its death have been very wide off the mark. There has been a gradual, if modest uptick in enquiry levels, as companies come to terms with how they will occupy offices going forward, although in many cases this is still far from certain. There was talk of what are termed hub and spoke operations being set up whereby a Central London office would be supported by multiple suburban offices, but we have not seen significant evidence of this. Anecdotally however, we hear that serviced office centres may be providing the spokes to this model.

Hybrid working

Hybrid working is very much becoming the norm, with employee time being split between office and working from home. We are also seeing a trend emerging of a high proportion of companies in the market for offices gravitating towards the best quality space. The thinking behind this is to create a truly attractive and appealing working environment to staff to encourage them back to the office, but also to appeal to new recruits and assist with staff retention.

This trend is particularly evident with larger requirements. Companies are also having to re-evaluate their workplace offering and culture, breakout areas and good coffee (we all have these at home) are not enough to tempt some employees back into the workplace. Creating an environment employees want to travel to is key.

An example of a recent relocation demonstrating this trend was Teaching Personnel’s move from somewhat antiquated offices in a peripheral Welwyn Garden City location to Wallace House on Shire Park, where a comprehensive refurbishment has just been completed. Negotiations were very constructive and included agreement to the Landlord providing secure bike storage.

We also find that there is a broad preference for in town space over out of town, with certain notable exceptions. This is due to the generally more complete package that in town offers to staff, in terms of a combination of public transport, leisure, shopping and eating facilities. As with the quality of the offices, availability of local facilities is key to maximising what might be termed the workplace experience for staff, who are a company’s most valuable asset.