May 23, 2014
The publication of a report last week by the British Council for Offices highlights the wider impact of workplace design trends and commercial property arrangements in the increasingly important Technology, Media and Telecoms (TMT) sector. Not least it suggests that they are having a transformational influence on the way firms in other sectors approach leases, workplace design and the changing nature of work. It is no coincidence that the TMT sector is the one most commonly associated with the employment of the much-talked-about Gen Y demographic, nor that the business practices most commonly associated with this overly-stereotyped group are those that are having the greatest influence in the way we design and manage offices.
The report, called quite simply Technology, Media and Telecommunications, not only identifies five sub-sectors of the TMT market, it also manages to pinpoint exactly why we find this world so intriguing – its youthfulness, entrepreneurial spirit, newness, fast-growth, trend awareness and all-round verve. These characteristics are not only reflected in the design of the workplaces these companies inhabit, but also in the way people work and the way they lease space.
The report also suggests that these are the things that other organisations most aspire to. So in an apparent attempt to ape the approach of TMT companies to the workplace, presumably hoping some of the magic will rub off on them, other sectors are following suit.
According to the BCO this is apparent in three key ways:
More flexible lease terms
The volatility of firms in the TMT sector and their need to maintain a greater degree of flexibility means they want shorter and more flexible leases. The report claims the average lease length for a TMT organisation requiring less than 5,000 feet in the UK is 5.6 years, compared to an average of 9 years. The BCO believes that the wider property sector needs to consider the impact of this churn and perpetual leasing activity. This is particularly important with UK lease lengths declining across all sectors and other organisations follow this trend of incorporating as much flexibility into their lease terms as possible.
The need to express culture and a strong identity in the office environment is reflected in the specific demands of TMT firms for tailored, high-specification fit-out. In fact, as the report points out in certain sectors such as advertising, many creative firms would rather spend their money on fit-out than rent when it comes to making decisions about where to locate. This thinking is permeating other sectors which see the office as a way of getting people to interact, impress clients and help in the recruitment and retention of staff.
Changing nature of work
The adoption of new working practices is also reflected in the way offices are designed. Larger TMT organisations, according to the BCO, want at least half their floor space to be dedicated to social and collaborative space. Similarly, there is far less emphasis on personal workstations as employees use their personal devices and other technology in the workplace as they would at home, in a cafe or some other setting.
At the launch of the report, Richard Kauntze, Chief Executive of the BCO, said: “As the TMT sector reaches a level of maturity, this research reveals that common trends in workplace design within the sector are less dependent on the organisation’s specific activity, but rather its size and maturity. This is indicative of a wider shift in the commercial property sector where developers and letting agents treat occupiers as individuals rather than making assumptions based on sector or type.”
“While the TMT sector may have pushed boundaries in challenging developers to meet different demands and needs, it seems companies from all sectors are inspired by the approach of TMT companies like Google. As a result, demand for flexible, connected and collaborative workspaces is becoming the norm.”