‘We know, for instance, that cheaply-built, stack-them-high office fit-outs open operators and occupiers up to all kinds of risks. Not just health and infection control, but complaints about sound, privacy, fresh air, and so on. What we need to do is create vibrant spaces that answer those needs and can control virus movement but that aren’t, at the same time, regimented. You want a workplace where people can be stimulated but can also feel safe.’
Jonathan admits there is a danger that operators’ (and their designers) gold-plate infection control standards get to the point where work life becomes intolerable. And he agrees that the craving for human contact, for lightness and joy, cannot be banished from a safe workplace. The big challenge is to find a way for serviced workspace to feel trusted.
‘Our clients have lots of choices. They could do what we do themselves, if they wanted. So we need to show they can trust us to get it right on service guarantees and risk assessments,’ he says.
Their white space business has barely lost a client since the coronavirus lockdown in March but, plainly, some contracts will not be renewed. Occupancy is down 8% on pre-pandemic levels. Safe to say WeWork would kill for that vacancy rate.
‘The serviced office occupiers who have suffered did so because they were not prudent. They obsessed about market share, signing bad deals in buildings that won’t work for them. But if you understand profit and loss, and hospitality and property, operators can thrive,’ he says.
Convene’s James Frankis is thinking hard about the world of workspace that will emerge, medium-term, once the virus is under control.