BCA Conference 2018 – Recap

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Last month, the 28th annual BCA conference was underway in London and we at essensys were proud be Platinum Sponsors. This year’s conference was spearheaded by thought provoking sessions from industry leaders focused on the ever-evolving nature of the flexible workspace, the impact the commercial real estate sector is having, and how operators can adjust strategies to ensure success amidst shifting trends.

A Permanent Trend Despite Economic Fears

As each speaker of the day confirmed, the flexible workspace market has proven to be a permanent trend. Additionally, with increasing interest and involvement from commercial real estate players, the flex-space trend has become a richer asset and business strategy, one which we’re only now beginning to scratch the surface of. Backing up the consensus of the day, CBRE’s James Pearson and Kevin McCauly cited industry wide surveys highlighting that 84% of the industry now firmly believe that the flexible workspace industry is here to stay.

While critics argue that the flexible workspace industry has not yet been effectively cycle tested and could potentially be exposed, 71% of operators believe that it holds the key to achieving the objectives of commercial real estate players. Even those still wary of involvement are demonstrating greater confidence in the industry’s proven durability.

To further strengthen confidence, Justin Urquhart-Stewart of Seven Investment Management highlighted the consistent growth of the flexible workspace and coworking sector in-spite of economic uncertainty across the globe, particularly in the key EU and US markets. If the economic outlook begins to normalize over the next few years as expected, it is safe to consider that the industry will continue to grow as it becomes more desirable and durable.

Work Happier, Work Better

As workloads and worktimes continue to increase, consideration for employee needs and has become a driving factor for operators and landlords to improve their spaces. Alex Gifford from Steelcase commented how the design of workspaces is playing a significant part in wellbeing and is now “more science than anything else.” With tenants increasingly cognizant of the variety and potential of workspaces available to them, they are now beginning to “combat the normality of fluorescent lighting, single desks, uncomfortable seating and lack of breakout rooms”

CBRE research further backed up Alex’s claims as 69% of staff say they prefer a superior space over their work and benefits packages and 64% believe that working in a desirable flexible space boosted their productivity.

Alex stressed that the quality of new workspaces has been a key driver for the growth of the industry and, for further growth, the industry needs to “Make a place that people want to be in and that they feel connected to. Can they leave the workplace feeling better and sharper than when they arrive? It’s possible, and that’s what we need to work towards.”

Digital Innovation

Technology and innovation have been prominent assets for the growth of the flexible workspace sector providing flexibility that modern tenants require. While there has been significant development for benefits such as apps that promote community and quality of experience, the progress of tech infrastructure providing connectivity and resilience has been a considerable boon for the industry.

Richard Morris from IWG commented that “digitalization is changing how people work. People expect their workspaces to be completely tech-driven and technology will continue to play a big part in how we enable clients to access our services. It’s about connectivity and enabling communities to do business with each other.”

It was noted that while the flexible workspace industry in the UK saw 16% growth last year compared to 2015, infrastructure in the UK is still currently lagging behind other markets. Fortunately, to counterbalance this, the UK Government are investing heavily in workspace infrastructure with campaigns such as the Gigabit Scheme.

The Industry Is Mainstream

As well as establishing the industry as a permeant trend, as the day drew to a close, speakers emphasized how the flexible workspace and coworking industries have quickly developed into the mainstream. Flexible workspace has become a core consideration for developers and landlords when they’re establishing new spaces. Moreover, landlords are examining and assessing flexible space as a commodity to further compliment their existing portfolios.

However, having flexible space purely for the trend would be “unwise when a wealth of desirable spaces already exists,” asserted Anthony Slumbers from Estate Gazettes. “The workspaces of tomorrow already exist today and they’re already mainstream.”

This year’s BCA conference was laser-focused on the changing shape of flexible workspace and it’s continued involvement in the wider property market. The insight and knowledge from the day’s speakers confirmed for delegates that this once small industry has carved for itself a significant chunk of the property market. We’re proud to continue to support the BCA, its industry-driving events, and thought leadership. Furthermore, we’re delighted to be this year’s Platinum Sponsors.

Next up, the BCA Annual Industry Awards and Gala Dinner in November. We hope to see you there!

Workspace Management Platform for Competitive Operators
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Tom Welby

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