The new year will mean reduced occupier space, a different way of working and more ‘sustainable’ ways of thinking among other factors, according to a report by Cushman & Wakefield about the regional office markets.
In Birmingham, partner Scott Rutherford said they were entering 2021 with “significant caution given the uncertainty of the economic consequences of both the Covid-19 pandemic and our new trading relationships with the EU” but he added that there were reasons to be cheerful for improving prospects within the city and the West Midlands.
Rutherford said: “Whilst the majority of the city’s office-based workforce has been working from home, there has been some notable progress around the city centre, with the construction of 103 Colmore Row and the Paradise development making visually impressive additions to the city core. Although there is an acknowledgement that there may be a higher degree of flexible and agile working in the near term, the collaborative and social element of the office will be attractive again and we will see the return of more employees into our cities once it is safe to commute.”
Bristol’s “varied economic drivers suggest it should bounce back from the current economic downturn quicker than other regional cities”.
Tim Davis, head of Cushman & Wakefield’s office in the city, said: “Logistics and retail sectors are increasingly linked as the growth of e-commerce continues accelerated by Covid-19. The buoyant former is set be strong, while the latter is still looking for solid ground, with more CVAs likely post-Christmas. Retail will need to focus even more on the customer experience in physical shops, with future placemaking and mixed-uses in our town centres essential.
“In the office sector, the way we work has changed forever with increasing agility. However, although occupiers may reduce space occupied there is a ‘flight to quality’ and Bristol has one of the highest quality pipelines in the UK with the delivery of outstanding buildings from Q4 2021. Coupled with this, we remain one of the UK’s tech powerhouses with a very strong demographic. All good indicators for a strong and growing city in 2021.”
In Leeds, the economic impact of Covid-19 and Brexit make for an uncertain 2021, according to Keith Hardman, head of the real estate adviser’s office in the city.
He said: “It’s likely that the full weight of government both nationally and locally will continue to focus on economic recovery and efforts to mitigate impacts, particularly unemployment.
“The chancellor’s spending review in November gave some clear pointers to investment priorities with a new economic campus and UK infrastructure bank to be based in the north of England and £50 billion+ committed to infrastructure improvements. There will be a push to commit investment in earnest to create tangible evidence of the government’s pledge to deliver on the levelling-up agenda.”
In Manchester, head of Cushman & Wakefield’s office Caroline Baker said there would be a “different” return to the office. She said: “ When we return to the office it will be for meetings with colleagues and clients to brainstorm, make decisions and ensure we are developing our team’s culture and expertise. Focused individual time will be done from home or from a coffee shop.”
She also said that “we will demand more from our homes – there will be a premium for outside and flexible space” and “the focus will be on access to open space (gardens/balconies) and flexible space that can adapt to changing requirements (dining room or office space and garden pods)”.
She added: “We will need to significantly reduce our impact on the environment – we need to travel more sustainably and create buildings which are more energy-efficient – working towards net-zero carbon. There also needs to be a focus on tackling energy efficiency in our existing buildings, especially our homes.”