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The new flexi workplaces – get ready to vertically integrate

When people talk about flexible workplace arrangements, we think of hot desking, and nowhere to put your pot plant and the photo of your family. The jury is still out about what that does for people’s comfort levels and how well they work; but the future of offices is far bigger in its scope.

“The new trend isn’t open plan and having to use your laptop on the table in the lunch room”, says Davida Dunphy, a real estate Partner with DLA Piper in Auckland. “It’s to do with the sorts of offices people will be working in, and it affects bosses, workers, landlords, everyone.”

Government departments, corporations, smaller firms, anyone using offices, is going to get acquainted with flexible space, and different kinds of leases. There is jargon of course, phrases like ‘co-working’, ‘serviced suites’, ‘vertical campuses’ and ‘managed services’. So what do these terms mean? Davida Dunphy translates – “Outside the traditional core need for space (so everyone can do their essential jobs), the trend now is to add ‘flex’ or ‘swing’ options – extra space that you bolt on as required, and maybe share with other businesses: meeting rooms, project or training areas, conference facilities, copier rooms… even staff cafés, gyms and wellness facilities used in common with other tenants of the building you are in. In highrises, that means city campus arrangements, or vertically integrated community environments.”

For example, your firm may have sole use of two floors, with access to space elsewhere as required. Your floors will be exclusive, with internal staircases just for you, but the lifts can take your staff up or down as required to use other facilities. “It’s an exciting future with plenty of benefits,” says Davida. Landlords can ask for higher rents from flexible builds or renovations, tenants have the chance to meet and collaborate with other occupiers, it’s easier to acquire room for an expanding workforce for a special project, and even downsize if need be.

How close is this future? Auckland’s CBD has seen high occupancy in recent years, so there would seem little incentive for landlords to move with these times, but as we know the nature of work is changing rapidly. The flexible workspace sector has doubled in the last 3 years, with more than 100 New Zealand business adopting this very approach. That figure will at least double in the next five years if overseas trends are mirrored here. If you don’t hear flexi tenants knocking on your door yet, they may be soon. In the UK, 30% of corporate real estate will be flexible workspace by 2030; Europe's flexible office space is expected to grow 30% year-on-year.

Davida Dunphy says that not only landlords and tenants will be introduced to the new flexibility. The international hotel company Accor has announced its intention to implement 1200 coworking spaces in under 3 years within its hotels, for example. Businesses, landlords and developers - along with interested media - can contact Davida to find out more. She can draw on DLA Piper’s international familiarity with this future of work, coming to a precinct near you – soon!

Davida is a partner based in the Auckland office of DLA Piper. Davida specialises in commercial and mixed-use development, leasing and portfolio management. She has significant experience in commercial office leasing, co-working and property workplace trends having also been General Counsel at NZX listed Precinct Properties, the owner of innovative co-working operator Generator.

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