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The days of the desk are numbered

Two research projects show a sharp pivot away from desk-bound office formatting.

06/01/2022 2 min read
No6 Babmaes Street

The data, from a law firm and a tenant platform, comes as the Crown Estate pioneers its first entirely desk-less refurbishment in central London.

A global survey by tenant platform Equiem, whose users include international investors Nuveen and Blackstone, found that the ideal office to tempt workers back to the office would include relaxation zones (49% in favour), fewer desks (34%), and more gym and workout areas (34%). As many as 73% of respondents thought the main aim of the office was not desk work but to stay connected and to collaborate.

A separate study by law firm Fladgate showed the extent of office occupier’s desire to rethink their workspace, but not to reduce its size.

Fladgate’s research found that working remotely has increased for 49% of large companies and 30% of SMEs. This has resulted in a desire to reconfigure and rethink how their existing offices are used rather than causing the expected large reduction in office space across the UK, with only 13% of office space having shrunk since the pandemic.

25% of large companies and 17% of SMEs state they have repurposed space and almost half of companies (47%) believe their organisation will not go back to pre-pandemic work processes.

The message has sunk home at the Crown Estate, where a refurbishment of the disused 1970s block at Babmaes Street, London W1 has been conceived entirely without desks.

The 6,700 sq ft project by Fathom Architects is a new concept in workspace designed primarily for wellbeing and social interaction, the firm said.

Fathom say it is “a dedicated hub for networking, events and wellbeing activities” and “a characterful urban sanctuary.” A new rooftop space creates 4K SF of ecologically rich space to enhance biodiversity and local air quality, as well as reduce rainwater runoff.

Spaces include a wellness studio and event space, meeting rooms, dining spaces, lounge areas and a roof terrace with planted screens amidst 4,000 sq ft of biodiverse gardens. The first floor has four coworking booths and two phone booths, and Fathom’s approach is in line with BREEAM and WELL principles.

Stephen Lewis, Partner at Fladgate, said: “The demand for flexibility is undoubtedly the largest threat – and opportunity – to real estate owners and investors. Our research suggests that people are placing higher importance on factors that impact quality of life including the desire for more space, greenery, and culture.

“With an undersupply of these types of mixed-use developments and assets that place experience, quality of life and wellbeing at their core, the real estate industry should respond accordingly in order to not be left behind by this new reality where flexibility and the end user is king. It makes the UK and London Real Estate markets even more attractive to developers and investors.”

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