Kitt: Collaboration Is The Key To Creatively In A Post-Pandemic, Hybrid Working World
The future of physical offices is a hot topic in boardrooms all over the land. It is perhaps not surprising then that this is also sparking innovative approaches that marketing and business leaders can learn from and use to support this own teams. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Steve Coulson, Co-founder and CEO of Kitt to discuss this in more detail. Founded by Steve and Lucy Minton in August 2018, Kitt is a managed office platform offering an alternative to traditional office leases platform that aims to do the heavy lifting of bringing landlords and tenants together in the design process, fitouts and the management of space.
Despite the effects of the pandemic, there are signs that the landscape is growing.The total of central London take up of office space totalled 1.6m sq ft for Q2 which is the highest level of take-up since the beginning of the pandemic.
Coulson: “Over the past year the UK’s office and commercial real estate landscape has been shaped into an entirely new entity. Government guidelines enforcing remote working almost instantly removed all demand for central office space and even as lockdowns begin to lift, we are still seeing the effects. Expected sales values for central offices have continued to fall since the start of the pandemic, slipping every quarter from the start of 2020 to the end of March this year. “
With a significant amount of empty office spaces across London and the UK, the commercial real estate market has been forced to change its approach.
“It is now a tenant’s market where landlords are having to work harder and think of their building assets as a product that needs marketing and positioning. We are seeing an ever-increasing demand for flexible leases and the industry is crying out for a new model that connects landlords to tenants and transforms space into an end-to-end product.”
The advent of remote working has seen many new trends emerging. With not all workers keen to return to the office, companies need to reconsider their locations and the facilities provided. As workplace attitudes have changed forever, almost a year and a half later, 85% now want to use a ‘hybrid’ working approach. This has made way for a new trend in making the office suitable for employees both in the office and at home, as well as providing seamless connectivity between the two.
“Tenants now want the power to choose where they work, a say in how the office is designed, and want to see how their office space can accelerate their business – essentially wanting an office leaving home for. Consequently, they are now looking for a new ‘layer of service’, above Wi-Fi and provision of desks. They want an end-to-end service, want to design it to fit with business needs, and want to be safe in the knowledge it will just run like clockwork.”
It is not just companies who are struggling to adapt to these new expectations; landlords are facing the challenge of presenting an office space that is actually worth leaving home for! Multiple sectors are now reporting wanting to stay at home full time. For many businesses, company culture will not look the same as it did before.
“We’ve entered a new era where the health and wellbeing of employees has been pushed front and centre. Company benefits are being focused much more around mental wellbeing, health and offering flexibility in working rather than the ‘fake culture perks’ of free drinks and ping pong tables.”
While this sounds like a more fulfilling office space be designed to suit hybrid working in a post-pandemic world and facilitate collaboration and creativity?
“There is no longer a one-size fits all approach to office design as businesses search for bespoke features they can develop over time and mould into a service that works for them. There will be a changed purpose and dependence on their office ‘desk’ and what it means. We believe office designers need to create a space to provide the same level of comfort as home and maximise productivity. We believe hybrid workers will continue to choose to dedicate remote working time for focused work, so office designers must look for ways to turn the office into more of a collaborative space – for example, with increased break out zones. An open plan space, away from dedicated desks increases the possibility of social interaction, chance encounters and opportunities to build professional relationships and remove barriers of isolation.”
As we emerge from the pandemic, landlords and operators need to be closer to their business customers to gain a greater understanding of their space needs – arguably for the first time ever where the onus was previously only on the company. With pressures from workers for companies to adapt and be freed from traditional models, this is yet another fascinating aspect of how business will continue to enter a new wave of work, change in a post-pandemic world – something the Kitt team have been adjusting too themselves during this time.
“One of the biggest challenges startups faced was resisting the urge to chase short term opportunities. Every company was forced to work remotely and for businesses like ours, we had to adapt, switching to online viewings and virtual collaboration. However, to rethink our vision would have been a huge mistake. We had confidence in what we do, and by the end of the summer, we saw demand and revenue rise.”
Marketing leaders keen to get their teams to perform at a high-level no matter where they are working need to listen to the feedback from them and help their companies adapt also. As the war-for-talent hots up again as companies look to invest it is essential to consider the ‘end-user’ and deliver an experience that will truly incentivise their workers back to your workplace.