Commercial property: Gig economy shapes design

In the last decade one of the biggest changes in the workplace has been a shift towards a gig economy, where temporary jobs are commonplace and companies tend toward hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees.

Communal spaces are thought to promote interactive working

It is estimated that nearly 30 per cent of the working population worldwide is employed in this way, and aided by easy communication channels and globalised networks that proportion is likely to continue to rise.

While those working in the gig economy do not enjoy the benefits that come with full time employment, they can set their own hours and have flexibility in where and when to work – and for whom.

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Inevitably, the consultants, contractors, freelancers or temps that make up the gig economy are changing the corporate landscape and how we work.

Companies hiring non-permanent employees on an as-needed basis are essentially expanding and contracting their workforce throughout the year, and this is having a huge impact on the design of the workplace of the future.

According to Cushman & Wakefield’s global trends report, The Occupier Edge, firms want offices with fewer private offices and cubicles, and more open and collaborative space.

The goals are twofold: first, to facilitate discussion and collaboration and secondly to decrease the firm’s rent bill by providing less physical space per worker.

Meanwhile short-term office space providers such as Regus, the industry leader in shared work space, which has 3,000 locations in 900 cities across the globe or WeWork, which claims 50,000 members, fill the gaps in cities for lone workers or those who need an office or meeting room for just a short time.

According to Mark Jones, a partner in Cushman & Wakefield’s occupier solutions team, this move to “agile working” sees companies trying to balance providing flexible working space for permanent staff and meeting the requirements of project workers by remodelling existing buildings.

He says: “In London, this has led to fit-out costs of an average of £80-£120 per sq ft and the same is true of Edinburgh, but here that represents a much higher cost ratio, of around the equivalent of two to four years rent for a building, so it is a massive capital investment.

“However, it still makes sense to spend the money to redesign a building in the right location because it is what the market is demanding.”

He says that values are likely to remain high in the best locations.

“Edinburgh does not have enough space in the city centre and the traditional townhouse offices do not meet the needs of companies looking for open-plan spaces and large floor plates.”

He believes younger workers, particularly those on short-term contracts, are influenced in who they choose to work for by the quality and location of the office.

“It is no longer just about money, there is now a much wider set of criteria to judge a company by, and for the best employees to decide if they want to work there.

“At the moment the gig economy is usually to the employer’s advantage, but firms are finding that to recruit quality staff they need workplaces that meet the needs of an increasingly demanding workforce, if they hope to reach and retain the best workers.”