April 12, 2021 | News
Working from home has become normal practice so is an office now a luxury commodity rather than an essential requirement?
Nick Beesly, Estates and Business Development Manager of Surrey Research Park looks at the impact of the pandemic on commercial property and considers how landlords offering ‘added value’ will be more attractive than ever before.
Changing needs of staff combined with new financial pressures have led many companies to review their need for office space, and in some instances downsizing or exiting rented property altogether. However, the signs are that this is only a temporary trend. Indeed, a survey of Surrey Research Park businesses indicated that over 70% expect to fully return to offices in 2021. Meanwhile, our vacancy rate remains low as we continue to welcome new tenants to the Park.
Our tenants have felt a loss by not being able to bring their team together in person. Our survey amongst businesses on the Park, revealed that 80% have missed being office based during the pandemic, in particular the in-person collaboration, learning from colleagues and socialising that go with office life which are difficult to replicate online.
Our tenants have noted that their staff have been negatively impacted by loneliness as they work from home. Human interaction and maintaining a clear separation between home and work are important factors in maintaining good mental health. The Park holds the space to allow people to connect and relax, with communal and break out areas to meet, a vibrant café, Hub on the Park and a large area of grassed outdoor space by our lakes, as well as an opportunity for employees to unwind at Surrey Sports Park which is on our doorstep. As confirmed by many HR professionals on the Park over the years, we know for a fact that the physical space available to workers at Surrey Research Park plays a major role in the attraction and retention of quality staff.
However, what staff and employers want from their office space is inevitably going to change and it may no longer be sufficient to simply provide an appealing place for individuals to work and relax. The immense value-added opportunities for close collaboration with the University of Surrey are welcomed and recognised by our tenants. From our survey, the majority of respondents have collaborated with the University from funded projects, directly funded research, University of Surrey placement students and student mentoring, with many of these worthwhile partnerships highlighted throughout this magazine.
We also facilitate collaboration between our tenants, fostering cluster and cross sector growth and cooperation by arranging social, networking and briefing events for tenants, academics and the wider business community.
As a result of the connections formed on the Park, our tenants joined forces to launch a new initiative in the Summer of 2020, offering access to free consultancy for businesses on the Park.
The initiative reflected the true essence of comradeship and support available here and reinforced the added value of our unique setting and strong spirit of collaboration. During such a challenging time for many, we were very proud to see many businesses on the Park committing to helping each other thrive and demonstrating their expertise whilst forging new opportunities to work together in the future.
The impact of the pandemic on commercial property has been well-documented and landlords are under more pressure than ever to be both flexible and fair. Our own flexible leases, such as those available in our Technology Centre with 30-day notice terms, have come into their own, giving tenants the confidence to commit and ensuring Surrey Research Park remains a dynamic, thriving and diverse enterprise hub. We make it easy for businesses to be here, where they can take advantage of the depth and breadth of support facilities such as co-working incubators, knowledge sharing events, business education and the potential to secure funding in the form of a business accelerator or knowledge transfer.
Combined office/homeworking and increased flexibility in the workplace are likely to be a permanent legacy of the pandemic, changing the way employees work in office space for the foreseeable future.
Companies will think more critically about their office facilities, placing greater focus on purpose and productivity, while seeking added value services and proximity to synergistic organisations to maximise their returns. Recognising the importance of an office as a place to collaborate, be inspired, supported and in many instances with direct access to a University community, Science Parks are in prime position to meet the needs of businesses in the short term and post-pandemic landscape.