Short, flexible and temporary: the shape of the UK’s office scene

With their cauliflower ears and wonky noses, ex England rugby players Matt Dawson and Tim Rodber are unlikely leaders of the UK’s ever-changing office scene but their company Instant – a broker for temporary office space and serviced offices – has become a major player on a global scale.

The duo and their team find office space for businesses in the world’s leading cities, whether they want a single desk or have 500 people to house. As well as start-up and tech firms, Instant works with giants such as Amazon, Accenture, Hootsuite, Transport for London, Willis and Serco – especially when their workforces expand rapidly due to overnight success, acquisitions and special projects.

While Instant’s success – with growth of 30% year-on-year and seven offices around the world – may make headlines along with the sports stars at the helm, the bigger story reflects the direction of the UK employment market, especially in big cities such as London, Leeds, Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham.

With post referendum jitters hanging over the economy like a dark cloud and Trump’s term in office sending tremours around the world, the UK’s employment sector needs to strengthen to rebuff any negativity and encourage businesses to base themselves here. Flexible office options are a great start and give employers the opportunity to hire according to their needs (and the state of the economy). Dawson, speaking to The Telegraph about Instant, alluded to businesses choosing shorter lets or temporary office accommodation in order to encourage more collaboration and temporarily consolidate teams – and that may mean relocating staff from within the UK and from overseas. In fact, Instant saw the number of enquiries for its office listings site from overseas businesses looking for space in the UK peaking in May 2016, with the highest number of requests for workspace at any time in the past three years.

In the same week as The Telegraph reported on Instant’s success, the Financial Times chose to highlight the boom in office co-habitation, leading with the statistic that new shared offices have taken up 900,000 sq ft, or 8%* of all newly occupied space in London, on average, in each of the past five years. The FT article contains a great graphic that illustrates the number of shared offices spaces throughout the UK, and point to big blue chips such as Microsoft and HSBC moving away from traditional office set up towards shared spaces to access new talent and to demonstrate they are open to innovation.

The emphasis is now on targeting smaller businesses that might need to reduce overheads and direct them to shared/flexible office space while at the same time tempt bigger more financially secure companies into collaborative workplaces to bring income stability.

It’s a trend relocation companies should watch with interest, especially if international businesses see short term office lets in the UK as a crucial part of project work and expansion plans, with employees being brought in from across the globe on temp-to-perm contracts.

* Cushman & Wakefield

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