10 April 2017

High rentals in Central have been a challenge for many corporates to identify an ideal office space. While decentralisation has been happening gradually since the late 1980s, it is still a stretch for many businesses and employees to consider relocating their operations away from the traditional business districts. Even though you can reach most parts of Hong Kong within a 30 mins MTR ride. 

Is it not the time for us to adopt a new mind-set when formulating the next office location strategy?

Of course the answer is yes but the reality may be different until mind-sets change in favour of the millennials. Surely then, a shift in the traditional office paradigm requires more than just “out-of-the-box thinking”? If it does, will the future workplace and workspace be very different from the past or just an adaptation of the same layouts with new technologies? These are some of the questions we are asking at Colliers to better understand what occupiers and CEOs need to do to be successful. 

While high rentals have been the main factor to push businesses to decentralise, other factors are now driving occupiers to consider alternative locations. One trend we are seeing is companies retain a much smaller presence in Central while moving the majority of office functions to decentralised locations. Companies will start to realise that there are actually more business opportunities in new business districts than just in Central. 

Technology has also been playing a key role in the planning of offices locations. Cloud computing, secure wireless connections and the increase of mobile devices have made today’s workforce more agile. As more and more business is done outside the office, the importance of the workspace is overtaking the workplace. We see the future office having no boundaries or barriers, as long as it leads to an enterprising and creative outcome. 

The human factors, especially rising health and wellness awareness among staff, will therefore play a significant role in the future office. Instead of being a symbol of stress and high-pressure at work, creative office planning allows people to relax, recreate, and celebrate success together with colleagues and clients. In doing so, the workspace will become an extension of your home, bringing life and enjoyment. 
 
From our perspective, the new office paradigm is where the workspace is more important than mere location. Does this mean the demise of the traditional method of assessing a rental based on “location, location, location”? No, it will not, but the new version may be more akin to “technology, space, wellness”, denoting the importance of the environment we work, live and play within and how business solutions will be more creative rather than linear. 

If Hong Kong-based companies and employees are to stay ahead of the game, we need to change our mind-sets in terms of office locations, environments and facilities. A 35-minute commute becomes acceptable if people can work in a much improved office environment. If this happens, more districts will become accessible, making the overall supply side issue less of a challenge.