Embracing agile working, and what else we learned in 2022!

Will Lewis | 21 December 2022

Many people seem to still be searching for a ‘magic bullet’, a one size fits all answer to how companies should approach their working practices. But the solution really is bespoke to each business: the circumstances they work in, the working patterns that suit people and will allow both them to benefit the business and vice versa, to the greatest extent.

For OBI, it’s a balance we think we’ve struck in 2022. We’ve gone to flex-time, allowing team members to set their working day to what best suits them. We’ve gone with a 4-1 pattern: four days in the office and one from home, allowing people that leeway to fit life admin around their work without undue hassle. We worked as a collective to agree our working policy and I’d like to thank the team for all their input – it’s taken time to get this right!

It’s a solution that works for us because we have a duty of care to our clients and to the city: we can’t ask people to do what we’re not prepared to do ourselves, and our commitment to Manchester includes being there, supporting the shops, restaurants and the rest of the things that give a city life.

There’s still a lack of understanding around this, evidenced by a recent Landsec customer survey that showed a third of workers, rising to half among graduate and entry-level employees, are unsatisfied with their employers’ current set-up.

We would do well to pay heed to this, as the office is still unreplaceable as a location for young people in particular to develop their skills and career, and to build relationships.

It’s really an opportunity to make workplaces better, and along with employers the onus is on landlords to provide an inventory that supports mental and physical wellbeing and provides a level of community. It’s fair to say tech businesses have been at the forefront of driving change and demanding better, but more and more companies are emboldened by this.

What else have we learned? It’s been a topsy-turvy year for Manchester, but the city remains strong and there are a few key trends.

Big and small tech deals are fundamental to the city. With what they can offer in term of growth, it’s vital we support and nurture the big employers here, but also those from elsewhere taking a foothold in Manchester. For an example, witness the recent deal where AND Digital, a business with 1,800 people, took 2,148 sq ft at Chancery Place for three years to house its Cloud da Vinci team – the kind of deal that might escape the headlines but says a lot about how tech operators are approaching things.

Education also remains vital as a sector. Several deals over the course of the year, particularly in the Oxford Road corridor, highlighted both how much training and development is being pursued by businesses for their people, and how smart Manchester has been in establishing this area as an innovation district over the last decade or more: the concentration of learning and science-led assets is phenomenal and a key differentiator for the city.

ESG has been and will continue to be at the top of occupier concerns when considering real estate strategy. This is no longer a “nice to have” but something with institutional value, as there is demand from employees, investors and markets to do the right thing in their approach to environmental, social and governance issues. One thing this means is that any refurbishment project has to hit the highest standards: a cheap and cheerful makeover won’t cut it any more – and nor should it.

Wishing you all a great Christmas and all the best for 2023.

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