Context and community key for the office of the future

The success of tomorrow’s office will not depend on location but rather on context and connectivity, experts agreed at Real Asset Media´s The Future of Office briefing, which took place recently at MIPIM in Cannes.

Karolina Sulma, Legal Department Director, Skanska Office Development CEE

“The community vibe will become more important because no one wants soulless offices,” said Karolina Sulma, legal department director, Skanska Office Development CEE. “Do not expect a flight from CBDs, because they are good for employers, for image and PR purposes, but also for employees who like to be in a vibrant neighbourhood.”

There has been a lot of focus on improving the quality of offices, which have to be more sustainable, more pleasant and healthier places to work in, but the context of the office is equally important.

“It is not just about the office but about the community and the environment, the availability of retail, restaurants and amenities,” said Danya Pollard, head of capital solutions, Cromwell Property Group. “In city centres there’s a vibe that suburban offices don’t offer, it is easier to have a social life after work and to connect with other people. There is a lot of social capital built up if you can just go and grab a coffee with someone.”

The pandemic has proved that people can work from home, but it has also highlighted the importance of those human connections and interactions.

“Places with a good mix are seeing rental growth because people like being in those environments,” said Avison Young principal Nick Axford, global director of research. “London and New York will not become deserts. These markets will not weaken, in fact they could strengthen because if people only commute two or three days a week they will do so more happily.”

As things return to normal after the pandemic, some changes brought about by Covid-19 will disappear but some will become permanent.

“One positive change is that performance will continue to be more important than presence,” said Axford. “Physical presence in the office will matter less than the work you actually do.”

The adaptability shown by everyone during the pandemic will endure and the demand for flexibility will be non-negotiable.

“There is no going back,” said Sulma. “These tech-enabled changes will stay with us.”

Reliance on technology is another enduring aspect, even if most people now have zoom fatigue. Every business will choose what works best for its employees.

“There will be a data-driven focus on what makes the office work for your particular organisation, needs and people,” said Axford. “There will be no more cookie-cutter approach that we have seen too much of recently.”