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FEATURE “It is dense


urban areas, a landscape of city-centre


skyscrapers and high-rise HQs, which will be


hardest pushed to recover.”


landscape of city-centre skyscrapers and high-rise HQs, which will be hardest pushed to recover.


A diffuse urban landscape While growing demand for regional office space is an increasingly attractive solution to meeting the challenges of COVID-19, it is no new trend. Even pre-pandemic, corporates were beginning to recognise the benefits of a decentralised hub and spoke office model over London-based HQs. In Nottingham, for example, the flexible workspace market grew by 93% between 2017 and 2019, while in early 2020 developers were committing to 4.3 million sq ft of office projects in Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester.


The pandemic is naturally accelerating this. In fact, while searches for office space across the UK as a whole are still down on pre-pandemic levels, the striking exception is an increase in office searches almost exclusively in satellite locations. Birmingham, for example, saw a 65% uptick in office enquiries between January and July this year.


The hub and spoke solution Not only is office demand shifting away from a London- centric mentality in favour of regional locations, the nature of demand in the UK’s second and third cities is


www.tomorrowsfm.com


also shifting from the urban core to the suburbs. One reason for this is that many centre HQs are woefully ill equipped to meet the health and safety challenges of COVID-19. Limited lift capacity in high-rise buildings, crowded corridors and public apprehension about crowded public transport are just the first examples.


A hub and spoke model is the obvious solution, with a decentralised network of flexible office space empowering people to access the amenities of the workplace closer to home, as well as helping teams return to the professionalism and productivity benefits of the office, with confidence in their safety. At BizSpace, for instance, all of our centres offer private car parking spaces to provide an alternative to public transport travel.


Clearly, the demands and priorities of both businesses and their employees are shifting. But in the weeks, months and years to come, we will see also that the pandemic is far from a death knell from the office. Instead, we should expect businesses in increasing volumes to shun the traditional, long term and rigid commitment required by a city-centre HQ, looking not only to the regions, but to also away from the urban core as part of a new hub and spoke model.


www.bizspace.co.uk/ TOMORROW’S FM | 43


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