2016 will see fewer desks in Bristol’s offices, and those who still have them will find they’ve got a lot less elbow room.
Office specialist Paul Williams, of Bruton Knowles, thinks firms will be looking to make better use of their space as a shortage in accommodation in the city centre begins to bite.
He said a lack of new space coming onto the market would push premium rents above the £30 per square foot mark but improvements in technology would help companies make more of less.
“Pressure on office space is increasing in big cities such as Bristol,” he said. “Minimised technology will reduce the need for the larger workspaces while owners and operators will ensure they are maximising use of space within the floorplate.
“When I came in to the industry we were allowing around 125 sq ft per employee. Now the average is down to around 80 sq ft per employee and sometimes even lower.”
But he did not believe this would necessarily lead to chronic overcrowding.
“For one thing there has been a massive drop in the number of paper documents needing to be stored.
“We believe desks – if they are required at all – will be much smaller than at present. Young people coming in to the economy will have their own phone and internet devices and will increasingly be deploying them for work as well as personal use.”
“The workplace of the future will break up traditional form and structuring and businesses will be making sure as much of the available floorplate is in use as possible, ensuring awkward spaces or alcoves are fully integrated.”
Despite these trends Paul believes the new generation of office worker be acutely aware of their environment and will want to know what their workplace looks like and what it offers.
“A smart use of technology and alternative commuting options has already led to demands for facilities such as expanded cycle racks and shower facilities, which were once considered as unnecessary add-ons,” he said.
“Increasing customisation of desks and hot-desking could eventually see people using cloud technologies to connect their personalised settings to a desk – any desk - anywhere from a city centre office building to a corner shop.
“It’s easy to dismiss new technologies as fad gadgetry but it should be remembered that we have only been using smart phones and the internet for the last few years or so.
“Before that the fax machine was seen as the answer to all of our prayers but is now virtually obsolete. Electric typewriters didn’t last long either, and can only be found in museums these days.
“Technological trajectories will go hand in hand with a careful assessment of building function and use of space.”
His colleague Paul Matthews, Partner and Team Manager at Bruton Knowles in Bristol, agreed office space was short and much of that was down to changes of use.
“There is a crying need for quality stock in Bristol with a proliferation of conversions into student accommodation leaving lack of options for those looking for new space,” he said.
Bristol has seen the highest number of ageing office blocks converted into residential dwellings outside Greater London and the South East during 2015 under Permitted Development Rights legislation, but James Preece, director of property consultants Colliers predicts a shift in the market driven by demand for office space.
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