Posted by Debbie Meredith

Posted 4 November, 2020 OBI BLOG

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the demand for flexible workspace had been increasing year-on-year and this trend has accelerated since the start of the pandemic.

The outbreak has had a big impact on the way businesses look at their real estate. In this current climate, businesses have converged on flexible working in the quest to embrace changes in working practices and to control occupational costs. Flexible working is clearly fully embedded in workplace strategies with most firmly acknowledging its role in their overall real estate strategy.

With the Government advising staff to work from home where possible, many occupiers who were in occupation of managed workspace terminated their agreements at the start of lockdown. Whilst working from home has suited some businesses, it has become apparent that offices still play a crucial role in cultivating a company’s culture.

The office provides an environment where colleagues can collaborate and share ideas more effectively than on a “Zoom” or “Teams” call. Our most recent study “Continuing to Adapt” highlighted the importance of the office, with 63% of business owners and employees saying that working from home was having a negative impact on their mental health. In addition, flexibility is becoming increasingly important to some businesses as they are reluctant to commit to fixed long-term leases given the current economic climate, thus making managed offices an attractive solution.


Continuing to Adapt – OBI Survey, October 2020

Since the beginning of lockdown, the OBI team have been busy helping clients and businesses in Manchester City Centre, respond to COVID-19 by realigning their real estate strategies.

Over the recent months, we have seen an increase in businesses looking for a new office once again, with many seeking not only flexibility in lease terms, but minimal upfront capital expenditure, speed and ease of access and transparency of occupational costs. Managed workspace provides an occupier with all these benefits and we will see a trend of flexible workspace options challenging conventional leasing solutions.

The amenity spaces on offer in managed workspace pre COVID-19 were valued by occupiers and played a big part in the overall attraction of this type of flexible workspace. Although these amenity spaces are not as widely in use as prior to the breakout of the pandemic, it has not deterred occupiers from taking managed workspace, as occupiers still value flexible workspace in good locations. Operators are adapting these amenity spaces and have slowly introduced socially distanced health and wellbeing social events so that occupiers can still feel part of a community.


Huckletree, Ancoats – Live Lounge (Left) / XYZ, Department – Presentation Space (Right)

OBI have a detailed understanding of the managed workspace offer within Manchester and our dedicated, flexible workspace team advise occupiers on the best flexible workspace solutions to meet their real estate requirements. Our managed workspace team have remained busy with inspections since the end of the original lockdown. In the last 3 months, we have advised 13 businesses on securing their new flexible managed workspace with a total of 179 desks secured across centres in Manchester City Centre and Greater Manchester.

We are working with several businesses who are soon to complete or secure space in Q4 2020. We listen to what businesses are seeking from their new workspace in terms of location, cost, amenity and space to scale as well as any other key factors required. Our detailed knowledge of the managed workspace market enables us to advise occupiers as to which spaces are best aligned to their requirements. We always have a full understanding of desk rates and offers that are available within the city.

We can also advise on the licence term, rental deposits and incentives along with internet provision and security. There will be different amenities and service offerings within a centre which may include meeting rooms, event space, studio space, exercise classes and wellbeing. We can advise on any of these extra costs, if there are any and we ensure you have everything you require to choose the right place for your business.

Operators are continuing to invest in their workspaces to provide occupiers with exciting, creative and innovative space from which businesses can collaborate, grow and attract and retain staff. If you are an occupier who has a requirement to be operational immediately, we have the knowledge to inform you as to which operators can facilitate quick occupation of the available workspace. The densities on offer within the private offices differ in the individual centres. We can advise on these densities and which operators deliver more space within a private workspace.

Some occupiers wish to make alterations to their workspace and our team can advise which operators will permit these works and whether the operator will only permit their own contractors to undertake these works. We are also able to assist an occupier in undertaking any proposed alterations and reinstatement to ensure that they are receiving the best value.

Our in-house workspace consultancy team and graphic designers can also assist in “personalising” space for occupiers when acquiring managed workspace.

We have been advising occupiers from all sectors and have assisted occupiers on acquiring space from a range of operators in all districts of the city.

Some of the businesses we have been advising include Mercia Asset Management on their relocation to 125 Deansgate (Spaces), Auden, Cra-Z-Art, Rugby League World Cup and Interquest on their relocations to Department in Bonded Warehouse (Allied London) and Regital Digital to Express Buildings (Huckletree) in Ancoats.


Express Building, Huckletree(Left) / Regital Digital – Interquest – Bonded Warehouse, Department (Right)

These are all prime examples of occupiers who relocated quickly into flexible managed workspace agreements. These buildings provide extra amenity on-site including on site cafes, lounge, community and event space and collaborative co-working spaces. Health and wellbeing amenities are also increasingly important.


Blackfriars House – independent coffee shop, lounge, fireplace and reading room/ pod cast studio


Neo – communal lounge, co-working spaces, kitchens, presenation spaces, screening rooms and out door terrace

Our flexible workspace team are experts within this sector and if you are looking at a flexible workspace solution, we can help you to find the best space for your businesses and secure the best financial proposal. OBI have great insights and market intelligence into the managed workspace offering and would be delighted to discuss your occupational requirements further with you and help you secure the space you require.

Watch the video below to find out more on how OBI can help:

OBI – Managed Workspace