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Creating new workspaces for the distributed workforce’s ‘liquid footprint’


With the flexible office model slowly but surely supplanting the traditional working environments in favour of dynamic co-working spaces for a number of years now, we have seen many organisations reconsider the way they think about commercial real estate.

Whilst we certainly saw remote working established at an unprecedented scale in response to COVID-19, this was in fact, an acceleration of an existing trend rather than the beginning of an entirely new one. With employees at all levels, across a range of sectors, now enjoying the freedom to work securely and effectively from anywhere, the workforce as a whole is developing what has been termed a 'liquid footprint', with office space utilised on an as-needed basis rather than as the default.

With a full-scale return to the office still uncertain, it is inevitable that much commercial real estate is being repurposed or redeveloped, as companies look to reinvest these ongoing costs in activities that will sustain them in the 'new normal'. But what does this mean for owners, developers, and tenants, and how can we ensure these seemingly inevitable changes are made easy and beneficial? 

The rise of co-working spaces

As owners and developers of commercial properties look for new ways to maximise their ROI, we expect to see long-term dedicated environments for single occupancy become less commonplace, with commercial real estate adopting a more dynamic approach, as shared spaces for multiple organisations, with residential accommodation, retail and catering outlets all representing possible future tenants. However, the existing infrastructure in most commercial properties simply doesn't offer the level of agility needed to make this a reality. With much of the connectivity and IT infrastructure being sustained by restrictive on-premise platforms, tailoring parts of an IT infrastructure to be suitable for multiple tenants' specific requirements will be extremely difficult and often require complete forklift replacements.

Traditional installations require substantial capital investment and a fixed footprint, which means they are prohibitively time-consuming and expensive to adjust and replace. Critically for landlords, the original capital expenditure may be extremely difficult to recover with shorter-term leasing commitments and replacement infrastructure for each new tenant. We would therefore anticipate an increase in the move to Cloud-based solutions, and an Opex-based consumption model. This will ensure tenants are free to pay for the services they need, when they need them, with rapid deployment times and the ability to scale up or down, as needed, while owners enjoy full visibility of their buildings' entire IT estates and an offering that will be highly attractive to future-minded companies who are embracing this new way of working.

The question then, is how to best put this into practice?

Technology solutions that support the future of working

As part of this shift from Capex to Opex models, technologies such as SD-WAN and Cloud-based managed infrastructure are proving critical to the success of co-working spaces, providing owners and developers with the ability to offer shorter-term commitments to their tenants, and the ability to repurpose their environments to suit changing demands. For tenants, this enables a fully flexible, on-demand platform that they can replicate at any location, all while maintaining leading-edge collaboration tools, robust implementation of corporate security policies, and full compliance with all applicable regulations.

However, the successful implementation of such technologies requires the support of a trusted technology partner, who can not only provide owners and developers with a comprehensive wrap of managed services - incorporating Wi-Fi, Cloud security, data centre, and unified communications - backed up with sector-specific advice and a robust network that supports consistent performance and security across multiple sites.

By cultivating such partnerships, owners and developers will be able to create buildings that multiple tenants will be able to move in with their own infrastructure and begin working immediately, for the entire duration of their lease. Once this expires, a new tenant can begin utilising the same space with zero delays or disruption. In this way, the transformation of commercial property will become more than a simple matter of expedience, providing the foundation of a more flexible, dynamic approach to how we work - one that will benefit both the commercial property sector and its tenants.

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