In July, BE Offices announced the launch of a new shared workspace lounge, termed pro-working, at its Minories business centre in the City of London.
First implemented at Cheapside and Threadneedle Street last year, BE’s pro-working space offers a furnished lounge with various seating arrangements and collaboration tables, exclusively for serviced office clients.
The space itself is impressive, but do clients recognise the value in having a separate business environment? Is it simply a workplace perk, or do they use it constructively?
As we learned at this year’s BCA Conference, during which two business centre clients were interviewed as part of ‘Inside Out: An Occupier’s Perspective’, there is enormous value and much to learn simply by asking clients about their flexible workspace journey.
Continuing that theme, the BCA put a number of questions to clients and Centre Managers of BE Offices based at Threadneedle Street and Cheapside, to understand how their new pro-working spaces are used.
How do your clients use the pro-working space?
“Our clients use the space for one-to-one meetings or for a quick bite to eat,” says Joely Wilkey, Assistant Manager at Threadneedle Street. “I would say peak time is during the early morning when people grab a hot drink from the iPad coffee machine and also at lunch times.”
Taruna Patel, Centre Manager at Cheapside, added: “Our 6th floor lounge area is used for breaks, lunch, interviews, informal meetings, and a place to relax and have coffee. Our clients also use it to make and receive phone calls.”
Have you noticed increased usage of your pro-working spaces? Do you believe this is linked to greater awareness and acceptance of coworking practices?
“There can be no doubt that our clients are increasingly aware of the rise in the coworking revolution,” commented Julie Tucker, Marketing Officer at BE Offices. “Our clients love our pro-working space, so much so that this is now an integral part of our model going forward for all refurbished space.
“We have also created a pro-working area at our own new offices in Barbican and it is always in use in some way or another, allowing teams to work more collaboratively.”
What do clients think of the space, and do they recognise its value?
Based on feedback from clients who use BE’s pro-working spaces at Cheapside and Threadneedle Street, a number of interesting patterns are emerging.
Ashley Hudson, based in Cheapside, says that he generally uses the lounge space to relax with colleagues: “It allows you to completely switch off from the office for a few minutes, which results in greater productivity on returning to the office.”
At Threadneedle Street, Louise Johnson says she uses the space for informal meetings whilst Mike O’Keeffe uses it for “group working” and collaborating on specific tasks. In addition, Mike also appreciates its potential for personal space:
“It adds significant value by providing an option away from the office. Having this option allows me to have a change of scenery when I need to do something more creative like write a report, a blog or an article, and I need to get away from the general day-to-day work.”
At the same centre, another client responded: “When and if the lounge isn’t crowded, it’s like sitting in my own bubble and I can just put my head down and get on with work.”
Interestingly, despite the potential for noise distractions, the space is clearly becoming a retreat in which clients can break away from their own office environments.
“I use the lounge space to get away from the office suite if it’s crowded or noisy,” another client commented. “I find the lounge much better suited to enable focussed working or tasks requiring concentration.”
Comments such as “spacious”, “informal” and “relaxed” demonstrate the appeal of a comfortable break-out environment. At the same time, references to “impromptu meetings” and “collaborating” show that those same clients value its diversification.
One client went so far as to say that the pro-working facility was “the clincher” when choosing their office.
As our market continues to expand and evolve, finding ways to add value to business owners is becoming ever more challenging.
“The London market is becoming quite crowded with lots of new players in the serviced office sector,” Julie commented.
However, BE Offices reports that demand remains “very strong” and occupancy levels are up in almost all of their centres, along with “an excellent client retention rate”.
Performance such as this is indicative of their drive to push ahead and evolve their offering in keeping with the changing business landscape.
Never one to rest on their laurels, BE is now pushing the ante yet again with £2million investment in superfast 10Gb Internet connectivity across its portfolio.
David Saul, BE’s Managing Director and co-founder, said: “We are constantly striving to establish new levels of service and create new industry standards.
“By introducing superfast 10Gb connectivity I believe we have really raised the bar in setting service levels that are the best in the industry.
“We believe this will set us apart from our competitors and prove hugely attractive to clients who need to process substantial quantities of data quickly and reliably.”
What’s interesting about BE’s new fibre connectivity and their stance on pro-working is that, as an inclusive benefit for clients, neither service generates its own additional revenue. In that sense, it’s a step away from the traditional business centre model of charging extra for meeting room space or premium-grade connectivity.
Indeed, we learned from business centre clients Martin Johnson and Mudrika De Maria during BCA Conference 2017 that such ‘extras’ are an aggravation to serviced office clients.
As we have seen from BE’s performance indicators, there are alternative models that provide invaluable assets to clients. No two client requirements are ever the same and, whether it’s a pro-working lounge or access to superfast Internet, those ‘clinchers’ add immediate value to clients in extraordinary ways -- an absolute necessity as our industry evolves and competition intensifies.BCA Members can watch Bruntwood’s Andrew Butterworth discuss flexible workspace with two business centre clients at BCA Conference 2017. BCA Members login here and click BCA TV - Video Broadcasts 2017.