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

What’s the purpose of the city in a post-COVID world?

MCM has launched the second mission from its Innovation Lab and Thinktank, #MCMSkunkworks. The firm’s series of big ideas for a better future for cities will focus on five unique themes: work, living, infrastructure, culture and entertainment, and the environment.

17/03/2021 4 min read

Here we bring you the first part of MCM’s ideas on work, with MCM’s Ken Giannini offering his positive ideas to landlords, developers, and funds of commercial offices, who are facing great challenges to make their buildings and portfolios relevant in the new world of hybrid working.

Did you know that London has approximately nine million residents, and pre-pandemic, 5.03 million people commuted to work from all regions or from outer London to inner London daily, according to the Office for National Statistics?

Not anymore. The pattern of use of cities has, fundamentally, changed forever – largely due to the fact that white-collar knowledge workers will not be commuting every day to their place of work in city centres. All the staff surveys and data and C suite statements over the past several months point to the same conclusion, saying there will be a balance and a commuting pattern for most workers of 2-3 days a week in a central office hub and 2-3 days somewhere else – ie. home or a third place in their community or remote from the city centre. Hybrid working, as it is now referred to, is here to stay.

The city will become a destination not a routine. Commuters do not just go to work – they also impact the environment, frequent shops, use public transportation, take taxis, shop, eat meals, enjoy entertainment, cultural and leisure venues and are the lifeblood of the income for the city and its businesses and infrastructure.

Of course, that has temporarily changed in the current emergency measures of fighting COVID-19 and will likely continue for many months. But let’s look beyond COVID-19 and post-vaccination, to when we can return to a world of no social distancing and other restrictions.

We believe there are many positive outcomes from the changing pattern of use of cities and the MCM Skunkworks programme – our internal Thinktank and Innovation Lab – has researched the issues, engaged with clients and others and, here, we’re offering our opinions and bold ideas for cities that people will love.


Time to Reset

Hybrid working is here to stay. The impact of 2-3 days in the central hub office will mean the overall space requirements for most organisations will be less. Before you think I am talking about the death of the office, I am not. There is still a great need for offices as places for nurturing and mentoring, collaborating – places that allow creative and special experiences and are the cultural glue for organisations.

However, the fact remains that the reason to come to offices will be as a destination not a routine. These thoughts and ideas are addressed to commercial office building landlords, owners, funds and property companies who are currently wondering what to do to attract occupiers and keep our buildings full.

I have a positive message and three ideas and suggestions that will ensure commercial property owners can be leaders and their offer to their customers relevant in the new world of hybrid working.

I think now is the time to take a fresh look at the positive opportunities all commercial property owners have to reset the commercial property industry and, at the same time, bring people and their organisations back to the city.

Members not Tenants

Landlords; ask the question of yourself, who is your customer? Is it the CEO who signs the lease and pays the rent? Is it the Corporate Real Estate Director who finds the office space for their business and negotiates the lease terms? Is it the

Property Agents who offer the property to their clients to consider? No – it’s none of the above. Your ultimate customer is the hundreds or thousands of people who occupy your buildings and experience being in them.

Let’s look at the extreme examples. LandSec and British Land each have between 6-7 million sq ft of office space in London alone. That equates to approximately 60,000 people in each company’s portfolio who will occupy those buildings. That is more than the population of cities such Winchester, Salisbury, Canterbury or Hereford. That’s one hell of a community.

If our industry reset its mindset and focused on the real customer – the people – then what’s on offer to attract and retain and satisfy the customer must be very different than just a high quality reception, toilets, and bike racks. In today’s new world of hybrid working, occupants have a choice to be in an office building or not, and supporting their lifestyle rather than supporting just their time in the office building will be the winning formula. My suggestion is to look at all your occupants as a single community, as members of an exclusive club. The members have privileges, perks and benefits that the landlord provides because they are part of the club. When I say the members, I mean that, for all property companies, every single one of the occupants of all of your office portfolio.

Here is how it can work, via an app offered to all members. Two grades of membership – Gold, which is free and costs the individual or their company nothing, and Platinum, where the member’s company pays a small uplift in service charge to provide a wider range of perks or special services or places. Not all buildings can provide a complete array of spaces or services to the members but, throughout a portfolio of buildings, we may find coworking drop-in space, meeting rooms, specialist VC Zoom rooms, event space, bike and shower facilities, wellness clinics, concierge services, free Wi-Fi, gyms, fitness classes, TED talks, cooking classes, etc. This idea of perks or amenities provided by landlord is not new – the coworking industry has excelled in this. And, to be fair, many landlords are providing some of these, but the difference is considering them as a collection of assets available to the entire community of your members, not just on a building by building basis.

Look out for Work (part 2) next week

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