Paul Coulter: Redefining workspaces - why the ‘city fringe’ is making the cut

Paul Coulter: Redefining workspaces - why the ‘city fringe’ is making the cut

Paul Coulter

Paul Coulter, managing director at Eden PAM, the local asset manager on behalf of VCM Global Asset Management, argues that properties on the fringe of city centres are proving more popular for businesses to locate their offices.

In just half a decade, the workplace has undergone a dramatic transformation. The days of glass box offices with rows of desks are over. And, as the cost of living continues to rise and energy costs hit an all-time high, businesses are moving away from large floorplans towards smaller, sustainable, and more adaptable spaces that work harder to meet flexible working patterns.

Landlords need to create places to work, connect and play; the separation of work and personal time is less strictly enforced and the ability for workplaces to act as a tool to drive relationships and productivity is fascinating. Post-Covid, employees have got used to the small luxuries that come with homeworking, such as the short ‘commute ’to their desk, comfortable surroundings, the ability to juggle school runs or take the dog for a walk, and not worrying about deliveries being left unattended.

However, whilst working from home has its perks, there’s no reason why offices can’t offer the same benefits. Wise landlords provide modern-day necessities that give companies and their staff the best possible experience at work, creating places that people enjoy working in, and importantly, want to go to. And for employers who want to get people back into the office, they must make the pull factor stronger than the push. This is also vital to attract the best talent to their business.

Offices today need to not only look good, but also feel good, smell good and sound good - and add value to people’s lives! But with budgets being squeezed and hefty rental costs, many businesses are struggling to find spaces that truly fulfil all these needs.

City centre prices are high, and the availability of top-quality working space is limited. But this doesn’t mean companies should settle for less. The solution might just be the city fringe.

Properties on the fringe of the city centre are proving more and more popular. Still within easy reach of the hustle and bustle, they provide more space, attractive commute times, and sit at a price point up to 40% lower than city centre offices. With space at less of a premium, landlords of these properties can afford to sacrifice lettable area to create best-in-class amenities. Ultimately, tenants gain a lot more by moving slightly further out from the traditional city centre pitch.

We’re seeing a huge surge in demand for city fringe spaces in both Glasgow and Edinburgh. The introduction of Low Emission Zones (LEZ), which restrict access to traditional prime locations, are also pushing tenants further out.

Furthermore, as organisations look to improve their green credentials, city fringe space offers the capacity and flexibility to support, for example, EV charging and cycle storage. These added value benefits are proving to be key for occupiers with ESG at their heart.

Location will always be a key attraction, but if companies want to succeed in encouraging people back into the workplace, they need to turn their attention to removing any barriers.

Orchard Brae House, off Queensferry Road, is a great example of placing people at the forefront, with everyone from dog owners and new parents to gym-goers catered for. By providing significant amenities like a wellbeing suite, which provides a quiet space for people to take a break, a dog park, on-site gym, yoga studio, sanctuary garden and café, as well as Amazon lockers, we make it easy for people to enjoy some downtime and get some life admin done as well.

Pairing these facilities with a diverse range of offices and meeting spaces, our tenants benefit from an environment that promotes a healthy work-life balance, so that they can work to the absolute best of their ability.

The feedback we’ve received from businesses at OBH has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s clear that people really value having some essential amenities right on the doorstep. If an employee is only in the office two or three days a week for example, they don’t always have time to pop out at lunch to visit the gym or walk to the park, so having everything they need on site is a great help.

At the core of every business is its people. But sitting behind a screen at home and conversing over video calls is not enough. Creating spaces that people want to be, and where they can come together, is the only way businesses will thrive in the long term. And to give buildings a future, landlords need to start considering how they can meet the growing demand for amenities, creating spaces that help businesses thrive.

The benefits that city fringe communities can bring to local companies are clear, but we need more of them. I hope to see developers embracing more all-encompassing workplaces to close the gap.

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