Explore the latest projects from the UK’s commercial interiors industry, featuring the best of workspace, hospitality, living and public sectors.

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Industry Events

Coworking post-COVID: BE Offices

As companies look for more flexibility for their office accommodation, our sector will flourish, says BE Offices Derren Jennings.

19/10/2020 4 min read
Headspace Group, Hatton Garden

While many workers are reluctant to head into the centre of towns and cities (and discouraged from doing so right now, of course), others are craving interaction, collaboration, those ‘workplace standard’ facilities and a buzz around them. We’re even starting to see major corporates looking to move their entire operations to WFH. So where does this leave the coworking/flexible workspace operators? Does the current climate create major new opportunities for them? Are these operators looking to expand their facilities out to the suburbs/regional areas? Are they changing the look, feel and layout of those facilities? If so, is this the long-term future of their operations – or is this more of a short-term fix?

We ask a few of the country’s leading operators how they are adapting their offer, what the short- and long-term futures will hold for them and whether this marks the second rise of coworking.

Next in our series is Derren Jennings, Group Sales Director, BE Offices.

Headspace Group (part of BE Offices)

BE Offices Group is the largest independent supplier of flexible workspace in the UK, with just shy of 1 million sq ft of flexible workspace. Its core brands include BE Offices, BE.Spoke and Headspace Group.

How’s business right now?

After the initial hard lockdown period we have seen strong enquiries levels and sales are approaching pre-COVID levels. As you’d expect, clients are looking for flexibility rather than long-term leases, which we can offer with licenses from just one month. Whilst the landscape remains challenging, we feel confident that we will weather the storm. With over 25 years’ experience in this sector, we are well positioned to anticipate and adapt to change.

Are you seeing a desire for people to return to your spaces?

Yes – it appears that, whilst people have relished some of the benefits of working from home, they now understand, more than ever, the importance of collaboration and a shared working environment, which you can only really get from an office workspace. It’s very difficult to create a corporate culture or induct new employees with a full work-from-home scenario. The organic interactions that employees have almost accidentally in an office generate new ideas and a through-flow of information that simply doesn’t happen over a digital platform.

In light of COVID-19, have you changed your planning strategy? If so, how has that strategy changed?

We have reacted to the change in client needs, where many are looking for flexible space for their teams to work on split shifts, and rolling licenses that don’t tie anyone in for longer than they need. Working in partnership with clients has always been our strategy and delivering on our Service Excellence Guarantee.

Do you see regional/local hubs as a major new opportunity?

The initial view from corporates is that we will see a hub-and-spoke approach for some larger companies, with employees working closer to where they live or operate. We were already in the process of reviewing regional locations to add to our substantial portfolio. 

Again, in light of COVID-19, how have you changed your facilities/interior?     

We introduced a huge range of new measures to counter COVID-19 and ensure our workspace is clean and safe, including regular fogging in all areas with the same equipment used by the NHS and TfL, thermal imaging at receptions to highlight any symptomatic body temperatures, desk screens, social distancing protocols and a constant deep cleaning programme. Features like keyless entry and touchless coffee machines are also limiting potential touchpoints around our centres. We produced a comprehensive ‘Safe Return To Work’ document that was well received by our client base and outlines to prospective clients what we have done to enable a safe place to work for their teams.

Continued protection of workers is hugely important but the balance for mental wellbeing, requirement for social interactions and job creation is also crucial.

Have you altered your offering in terms of membership/how people can use the space?

We have rolled out a use ‘every other desk’ policy across our workspace and lounge areas to ensure that social distancing can be achieved at all times.

Do you see the changes to your spaces/offering as short- or long-term solutions?

We will maintain our new cleaning and safety protocols for as long as is required and, whilst we hope things return to normal, we will still focus on delivering the very highest levels of cleanliness throughout.

Are you seeing a change in the demographic/businesses now using your spaces?

We are seeing the largest section of clients returning to the office as under 30 years old. It’s easy to forget that, for younger people, the office is a crucial part of the their social wellbeing, where they meet new friends and build their lives. As the novelty of no commuting wears off, these people want to be back in a thriving environment where they can focus and be creative. Many don’t have access to a garden or a spare bedroom to work in and are very keen to return to their workspace. 

What are the greatest challenges for coworking/flexible workspace?

A continued message from the government to stay at home is not helping the return of strength to our sector in the short-term, but also penalising many other sectors of industry. Continued protection of workers is hugely important but the balance for mental wellbeing, requirement for social interactions and job creation is also crucial.

What are the greatest opportunities for coworking/flexible workspace?

The flexible workspace industry has been one of the biggest growth areas across the world over the last decade, and will continue to thrive going forward. As companies look for more flexibility for their office accommodation, our sector will flourish. We are aware, more than ever, that delivering first class service and building a thriving community is going to be key going forward.

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