Here’s where the opportunities lie for Yorkshire’s office market

It’s been a challenging time for the office leasing market but now there are real opportunities ahead for the UK regions, according to property firm JLL.

Wellington Place in Leeds

The future of office space is likely to mean less space but better space and sustainability will drive choice more than it has to date, it said.

Research into office market activity in Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh and Glasgow by the firm reveals that most businesses are planning to return to the office this year but over half - 58 per cent - plan to reduce their footprints over the next three years.

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Speaking at JLL’s Big Six & UK Regional Office Market 2021 webinar, Hannah Waterhouse, director of office agency at JLL, said: “Covid really has put the workplace revolution on the agenda. All those trends we’ve talked about for the last 10 years are now actually happening at a rate we could never have imagined.”

The key thing employees want is a better work/life balance, according to the firm’s research, and offices will become more about bringing people together and meeting spaces in the future.

The interior quality and health and wellbeing initiatives will become priorities and buildings with the best environmental credentials will stand out and attract the highest rents.

Technology will become a key differentiator for buildings.

There has been an acceleration of proptech, particularly in relation to health and wellbeing, JLL said. For example, building apps that monitor temperature and people flow as well as a general improvement in personal technology to enable better remote working and remote meetings.

JLL predicts that unnecessary business journeys will be questioned in the future.

Meanwhile, flexibility is expected to become a larger part of the office market with traditional landlords introducing new flexible floors into their once-corporate buildings.

According to Ms Waterhouse, the typical serviced office model is reaching its peak and new landlord models are gaining momentum.

“There’s a drive for space that’s ready to occupy,” she said. “Some landlords are now considering incorporating a flex floor into larger multi-let schemes. MEPC are looking at offering this in Leeds at Wellington Place.”

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Bruntwood revealed plans to roll out its ‘pioneer’ model, which supports agile and hybrid working, into Leeds - something many businesses are expected to adopt as the UK moves out of the pandemic.

The concept, which it trialled in Manchester, offers workspace for businesses of all sizes, from a single coworking desk to serviced offices and leased spaces.

Occupiers’ expectations on sustainability will drive building choices more than they have to date, Ms Waterhouse said.

Over a quarter of FTSE 100 companies openly state a net zero carbon agenda by 2030.

All these changes are expected to lead to rental increases for the best space in certain regions, she added.

“It’s been a challenging time for the office leasing market but there’s now real opportunity for the regions,” she said. “It’s genuinely an exciting time to be involved in some really forward-thinking projects for clients.”

Jeff Pearey, lead director for Yorkshire & North East in JLL Leeds, inset, added: “It’s absolutely clear that our office markets are going through significant change but it’s also clear that the office is evolving and adapting and will strive to accommodate that change.”

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James Mitchinson