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Offices are a-changin

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Report tracks the transformation of spaces

Office buildings and internal spaces are fast evolving, with uniformly designed workspaces to pack in as many people as possible a thing of the past.

Today, efficiency is obtained by alternative, more empathetic means, says Broll Property Intel’s latest research report The Evolution of Offices.

“Office buildings are becoming iconic designs that push the limits of materials, space and height – all while incorporating environmental responsibilities.”

South Africa is one of the countries leading the global race in the proliferation of eco-friendly green buildings. Since the energy-efficient building regulations came into effect in November 2011, the corporate landscape has changed rapidly.

By 2017 there were 300 Green Star certified buildings in the country. This move towards greener construction is partly a result of increasing electricity and operational costs, the report reveals.

The benefits of greener office spaces for both landlords and tenants are stressed.

The Broll report suggests inner-office spaces are also undergoing radical transformation. With multi-generational staff complements, working spaces have become hives of differing aspirations, characteristics and preferences.

For example, it finds older employees might value top-down managerial styles and partitioned cubicles, while millennials believe in earned respect and the tenacious pursuit of goals. This means architects and interior designers are more focused on employees, constructing working environments that cater to a workforce’s health, creativity, happiness and the reduction of stress.

“It is evident work ethic and attitude towards the workplace needs to match one’s working environment and vice versa. The balance between the matrix of multi-generational workforces and their workspace and environment is vital for productivity and the success of a business.”

The report also touches on technology, stressing the need for a response to rapid advances. Employers should accommodate staff by, for example, providing wi-fi and assigning laptop computers to employees who can work remotely.

Traditional offices are characterised by designated desks, with separate offices for senior staff. This is said to promote teamwork and communication, but their structured nature can leave some workers feeling restricted.

In contrast, the report looks at other layouts, including “hot-desking”, a system used when employees outnumber the available desks. Some staff work remotely, coming in at different times of the day, and will work at more than one desk.

Serviced offices, or co-working spaces, are cost-effective, modern rented spaces for organisations that don’t require fixed headquarters. These are managed by third-parties, fully equipped and state of the art, offering high-speed internet, meeting rooms and administration support.

The report says at the beginning of the year, the South African office market was made up of more than 18 million square metres of space, with a national vacancy rate of 11%. The prime office nodes are in Joburg, Cape Town and Durban.

In Joburg, the largest office node is Sandton, where total office stock has increased by 135% over an 18-year period. In Durban the node of note is Umhlanga/La Lucia, where the office sector stock has grown by 391%.

In Cape Town, Century City is the node with the largest concentration of P-grade space. It is a mixed-use hub where retail, office, residential, and leisure developments meet. Century City’s office stock grew 367% between 2002 and this year.

“South Africa’s office market has grown exponentially over the past 18 years, catering to both local and international corporates, and although an oversupply of stock is becoming evident in certain nodes, others continue to grow and develop,” the report states.

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