Broll Property Intel, research division of Pan African property group Broll, uncovers how offices have evolved, both in terms of physical buildings as well as office space, with its latest research report titled The Evolution of Offices.

The report reveals that workspaces of previous eras were designed to uniformly pack as many people in as possible – in the name of maximising efficiency. Today, efficiency is obtained by alternative, more holistically empathetic means.

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

South Africa is one of the countries which is leading the global race in the proliferation of eco-friendly Green Buildings. Since the energy-efficient South African building regulations came into effect in November 2011, the corporate landscape is changing at a rapid rate – literally.

South Africa had one green-star certification in 2009. In 2015 there were 100, and by 2017 there were 300 Green Star certified buildings in the country with more anticipated in 2018 and the years to follow. This rapid move towards greener construction is partly a result of increasing electricity and operational costs in the country.

Mixed-use developments are one-point destinations of convenience, featuring elements such as offices, retail stores, residential properties, hotels, and parking spaces. These structures minimise commuter carbon emissions, while creating a ‘live-work-play’ environment that makes the lives of residents and visitors more convenient.

This Broll Property Intel report suggests that inner office spaces are also undergoing a radical transformation. With multi-generational staff compliments, working spaces have become hives of differing aspirations, characteristics and preferences among employees.

For example, older employees might value top-down managerial styles and partitioned cubicles, while millennials believe in earned respect and the tenacious pursuit of their professional and personal goals.

Therefore, architects and interior designers are now more focused on employees – constructing working environments that cater to a workforce’s health, creativity, happiness and the reduction of stress levels.

“It is evident that 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 overall success of a business.”

The report also touches on technology in the workplace, stressing the need for modular IT infrastructures in response to rapidly advancing corporate technologies. While face-to-face interactions should never be discouraged, some employees prefer to communicate via email or instant messaging. Employers should remain accommodating of the evolving workforce, like providing Wi-Fi throughout the office space and assigning laptop computers to employees who could work remotely.

Like both office buildings and the workforces applying their trades within them, internal office spaces have evolved and diversified. Traditional offices are characterised by designated employee desks, with separate offices for senior management. While it is said to promote teamwork and communication between colleagues, the structured nature of a traditional office has been noted as leaving workers feeling restricted.

In contrast, the report looks at other layouts, including ‘hot-desking’ which is used when employees outnumber the available desks. Employees often work remotely, coming in at different times of the day, and will work at more than one desk in a typical week.

Serviced offices, or co-working spaces, are cost-effective modern rented office spaces for organisations that do not require a fixed headquarters. These are third-party managed working spaces, fully equipped and state-of-the-art, offering high-speed internet, meeting rooms, and administration support.

The Broll report further reveals that at the start of 2019, the South African office market was made up of more than 18 million square meters of space, with a national vacancy rate of 11%. South Africa’s prime office nodes are found in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, where growth has been radical over the last 18 years.

In Johannesburg 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% between 2000 and 2019. In Cape Town, Century City is the node which consists of the largest concentration of P-grade space, boasting a mixed-use hub where retail, office, residential, and leisure developments meet. Century City’s office stock has grown by a staggering 367% between 2002 and 2019.

“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.”

To conclude, the report stresses the benefits of greener office spaces for both landlords and tenants. Progressive solutions like mixed-use property developments are fast becoming the norm in South Africa and across the globe, with convenience being vital in today’s time-strapped working world. Office space has changed with the likes of serviced offices becoming more popular. The office market has evolved and the evolution is set to continue.

Visit www.broll.com/publications to download the full report.

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