Occupier Plans

By @paulcarderhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/paulcarder

Dear commercial real estate investor, What goes on tour, stays on tour, right? Usually…but I have recently returned from two conferences in the USA, and I feel I have to tell some tales. The first was the Global Workspace Association’s Annual Conference in Florida (@GWAssoc #GWABOCA2014), attended by various sized providers of workspace-as-a-service; mostly hospitality experts and marketers. They are ‘people people’, and I got the feeling that they have their finger firmly on the pulse of what people want from their working day.

The second conference was the International Facility Management Association’s World Workplace 2014 in New Orleans (@IFMA #IFMAWW14), attended by facility / facilities management professionals from around the world. Similarly, I found that many people there really ‘get it’ – that workplaces (offices, especially) are changing. And that change is permanent.

Permanent change…this is the key point really. It is not difficult, in most cities and towns, to drive five minutes from wherever you are, and to find vacant office space. And it will be easy to do so next year…and the year after. And so on. The owners of these vacant office properties may well know something that I do not. If so, I’d love to hear from them. But I just hear occupiers saying they are reducing the size of their office portfolio. And other things are changing too…

One change which was clear to anyone at the GWA conference in Boca Raton – the workspace-as-a-service (WaaS) market is growing. Occupiers (from the sole trader, and small business, through to large global corporations) are experimenting with workplaces leased for short periods of time. Some of the people I spoke with used phrases like “tipping point” and “exponential”. I didn’t take data away with me, but I’m sure it is available and would support these general views.

There are some places, like central London, where you would be forgiven for ignoring these changes. In London, there is a reported shortage of quality available office space. I’m sure that the same is true in other leading global city centres, where corporations will always be looking to attract and retain the best talent. But once you get to the fringes of these cities, or out into the smaller regional cities and towns, the agents (brokers) sign-boards are everywhere.

If I was a commercial property investor, holding tertiary offices, I might be thumbing through the last chapter of my property investment and development textbook. Those diagrams we remember from college, on the ‘property cycle’ – the last stage being redevelopment and/or sale. There just does not seem, to me at least, to be a long-term demand for the soul-less suburban and out-of-town office building. People can (and do) work in so many places today – from home, local ‘hubs’ near home, and many workspaces provided by GWA members. On the days that they do commute to their company office, I’m sure they will prefer a trip into the city HQ – the cool ‘mothership’ where all the money has been spent. But not the boring business park, where the highlight is someone selling sandwiches from the back of a van at 11.30am, and the coffee comes from a jar in the cupboard.

So, my next blog, perhaps “101 uses for a dead office”? All ideas gratefully received (I will quote you, unless you wish to remain anonymous!).

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Cheesy title, but serious point….

Many occupier teams will have been working on their 2014 Plan. Your major projects next year, your key service improvements, partnerships – or for a very few, even new hires (that has not happened much since 2008 – but occupier in-house teams are now very ‘lean’; maybe too lean?)

Whatever your 2014 Plan contains, why not share it with your peers? – you may be surprised to find out that others are planning near-enough the same as you for next year. How are they doing it? What are they going to do? How will they measure success?

Or you could maybe ‘dip your toe’ in anonymity? Let your peers know, but with no names – do it. Let us collate responses, and do some matchmaking for you!

If you find like-minded occupiers, with comparable plans for 2014, you could meet (or hold a web meeting) in the New Year. Or we could host that for you.

There are over 700 occupier ‘Heads’ and managers in our closed group: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Occupiers-Journal-Global-Network-occupiers-2275314/about . Plus, as few selected Regional Partners and useful friends of ours around the world.

Or just email me, tell me what you are planning for 2014, and I’ll ask others (in confidence) if they are doing something similar and wish to ‘swap notes’ in the New Year.

Above all, “clap your Plans!” – communicate what you are planning, and get some recognition for your efforts. In this sector we are all too slow to congratulate ourselves on the good work done to achieve better working environments for people.