Office real estate in Poland, as in the entire CEE region, is trying to forge a new identity for itself in the new times of hybrid work and lower demand. Participants in the panel on the future of offices at Future of Real Estate 2023 discussed how this process is taking place. The event was organised by Property Forum and RICS in Warsaw.
No one disputes the fact that tenants are leasing less office space after the pandemic - according to various estimates, by as much as 20%. However, many companies are instead choosing to increase the quality of their leased space „We see it the so-called ‘flight to quality’. People lease maybe less space, but they take it in better buildings. Among them, we see companies, which would normally not even think about modern office buildings, but rather some private apartments or sub-class offices”, said the moderator of the panel, Maciej Markowski, Chief Growth Officer at Equiem. His opinion was confirmed by Julia Racewicz, Head of Asset Management, Office & Logistics at Savills Investment Management Poland. „I agree. We also see the trend that tenants lease less space, but in better locations and with better quality. This is something new, just like a bigger focus on the offered smart and well-being solutions. We see more and more offices with collaborative areas, dedicated quiet zones and relaxation rooms. What is interesting, I observed that more and more people are involved in a decision-making process. How the future office should look, is not only in the hands of the CEO or an Administration Manager but more and more people are involved in this process. I find it very positive. Also, sustainability issues and green initiatives and programs are gaining importance”, said Julia Racewicz.
According to Anna Malarczyk-Arcidiacono, Business Development Director at Tetris Poland, the Polish office market is following the path taken a few years ago by the retail segment. „At the retail market, everything became an experience. Of course, you can buy everything online, you can choose, compare and so on. But you will not have something, that all human beings like to experience things, to touch, to be at the place. The same thing is about the offices – after Covid lockdowns, coming to the office has become an experience, an opportunity to meet people. More and more it is becoming a place to cooperate, to share ideas, which is probably a bit limited via Teams or Zoom applications. We like the hybrid working not only because we don't have to spend time in the traffic, but we also like it because we feel like at home. The office has to offer a similar experience. We need to bring some hospitality solutions into the offices. People need a place to relax, as well as a place for silent working”, said Anna Malarczyk-Arcidiacono.
Hubert Abt, CEO of New Work & workcloud24 claims that the return to the offices is something both needed and inevitable. „I used to say: ’to get the job done, you stay at home; to make progress, you go to the office”. That means that you go to the office to experience something, that you do not get at home. Maybe it's the office dog because you're not allowed to keep a pet at home. Or maybe it is about your good colleagues. Or maybe you just want to charge your e-car for free, or you want to go to the gym or the restaurant. Everything that makes you come to the office for at least three days a week is welcomed. You need to see the office as a retail centre manager, you need to go for a flex 360-degree service approach. Any other options will simply not work”, said Abt.
In the opinion of Bogusz Parzyszek, co-CEO and co-founder of Workplace Solutions, the office operators still have a lot to do to convince people to leave the hybrid work model. „The current goal of the tenants is to bring more people to the offices. But their office space – huge open spaces, small private areas, not enough parking - rarely answers to the people’s needs. 50% of the people who are ever in the office simply don't like working at home - they just don't have the proper conditions. In my opinion, we should focus more on those people, who are coming. We should change the pyramid of needs, putting at the top the people, who are coming every day. And just below them - the people who are coming two, three days a week. This is the way to make our offices full of life again”, said Parzyszek.
And what are the current largest challenges for office developers in Poland? „Find me a plot - that is the best answer I can give. We are competing not only with the office developers but also with the residential ones. They bring life into the city, and that's something I'm all for. But they also put pressure on us in terms of Excel sheets. And we cannot always be competitive in that matter. Location is still a crucial factor - we have to remember that in the prior years finding a plot in Warsaw wasn't such a hard job. Right now, securing a plot and city centre, I would say is close to impossible. We have to purchase old buildings and upbuild them, but it`s not possible everywhere”, said Henryk Bilski, Leasing Director at Strabag Real Estate.
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