The office market is entering a new age

Tim Harrup

The health situation has caused a dramatic change in our structures and the way they operate. Working from home, explains advisor Cushman & Wakefield following its latest international survey, has risen sharply and homeworking will occupy a significant place in the way work is organised in the future. Overall, hybrid working (in which the employee works part of the time in the office and the other part from home or some other location) is set to more than double in the years ahead, rising from 22% pre-pandemic, to more than 58%. In Belgium, over 55% of employees expect to see the way they work become more flexible.
Cushman goes on to say that it would appear that the office market is entering a new age that will see big changes to the way offices are used.

Some of the conclusions from its survey point towards the workplace becoming more important for creativity and innovation, collaboration and corporate culture, along with the employee experience and sense of belonging This means that the way offices are used – and hence the form they take – will change in the future. However, according to Antoine Brusselmans, Director of the Brussels Office Leasing Department, “The change will become visible over a relatively long period of time. Tertiary real estate has already started moving towards this new paradigm. But, like an ocean liner, changing course will take some time to happen. In the future, we expect there to be more coworking spaces for staff to work together and meet, with conference rooms of various sizes, office communities and spaces for ad hoc meetings, etc.”

In terms of what employees will expect to find in their office loctions, Antoine Brusselmans has this to say: “Urban locations would also appear to be in favour. In a world where employees will come to the office less often, they will be looking more for additional amenities and services when they do, such as retail outlets, fitness studios, cafés and restaurants. This means that fast, urban means of transport will be determining for greater workforce mobility.”

Decreasing take-up

Hence, Cushman believes, the old adage of ‘Location, Location, Location’ will be amplified by ‘Flexibility, Flexibility, Flexibility’ in the months and years to come. While the actual impact is difficult to estimate accurately in terms of figures, the advisor considers that in Brussels, take-up is likely to decrease in the years ahead and stabilise at around the 320,000 m² mark, on average, rather than the 400,000 m² recorded annually over the past 5 to 10 years. And this change will raise numerous questions about the future of the tertiary real estate landscape. Antoine Brusselmans concludes: “Nevertheless, a number of major deals should make it safely into land in 2021, which will contribute significantly to take-up. Combined with a certain resilience in the segment for medium-sized office space, 2021 could still have a few pleasant surprises up its sleeve for us.”