With so much commercial office development and corporate decision-making put on ice this year, LOM takes stock of what’s going to shape occupier investment in 2021.
The disruption wrought by Covid-19 forced many corporate occupiers to hold back on big real estate investments, while others expedited major portfolio change for the same reason. These contradictions are going to persist into next year and will continue to pull the market in very different directions. We can expect to see lots of activity – but not necessarily matched with lots of budget.
One thing we know for sure is that any investment in new office space will be driven by flexibility. The ability to scale workplaces up and down is going to be crucial now we’ve all seen how quickly working behaviours can change. Coworking and shared office spaces are likely to do well as the new middle ground for those seeking more flexible models, but businesses will be signing leases on different terms to before – taking whole floors, rather than putting staff in big open plan spaces.
“2021 is going to be the year of the reunion ... That’s got to be a big priority for occupiers in the first half of the year – setting up the workplace for a celebratory and memorable re-boot.”
LOM Director, John Avery
There will also be less tolerance for average space. As some occupiers look to shrink footprints, character, individuality and the overall experience are going to key factors in decision-making, rather than size and scale. There is always going to be demand for better quality spaces.
Indeed, we’re expecting 2021 to be a fantastic year for innovation.
Occupiers are going to be looking to make affordable changes that can have big impact, and that’s an exciting prospect for workplace designers like myself. We’re anticipating a significant re-adjustment towards fit-out and retrofit, and a renewed appreciation for office design and interiors.
We’re living through a complete liberation in workplace thinking that’s only been made possible by the sudden switch towards flexible, remote working this year. It’s opened up huge potential in our office buildings – with more free floorspace comes more free rein to re-imagine how they are used.
This year’s enforced homeworking experience has also allowed us all to re-discover the value of the office – and coming out the other side, occupiers need to focus on the ‘good bits’, which are ultimately the things that are going to entice us back there. The social side, the collaboration, the variety, the amenities – the things you can’t get at home. That’s a fun brief from a designer’s perspective.
But we can’t forget that 2021 is going to be the year of the reunion – the year we all come back together again. That’s got to be a big priority for occupiers in the first half of the year – setting up the workplace for a celebratory and memorable re-boot. Employees want to return to the office and see change and renewal. It will be a significant missed opportunity and a real disappointment if our workplaces look exactly the same, while our lives and lifestyles have been irreversibly altered around them.
Budgets may continue to be under pressure throughout 2021, but occupiers simply cannot afford to let this period of opportunity and re-evaluation pass. Emerging from the pandemic, investment in flexibility, quality and innovation will be more important than ever before.
John is an award-winning architect who has contributed to the success of a wide range of projects with the practice including large-scale architectural commissions, interior design projects, strategic planning and branding initiatives.