Business Services Centres (BSCs) continue to be one of the leading sources of FDI and one of the biggest employment sectors in the CEE region
In the first half of 2021, tenants leased over 1.1 million sq m of modern office space across the capitals of the 15 CEE countries. The highest level of activity was recorded in Warsaw (249,300 sq m), followed by Prague and Budapest. The Business Services Sector continues to generate a great deal of demand and occupier activity and is one of the largest employment sectors in the region according to the “ExCEEding Borders - Office Markets & Business Services in CEE-15”  report just released by Colliers.
Office Stock in CEE - H1 2021
The total modern office stock in the 15 CEE capital city markets covered in this report, reached over 29 million sq m at the end of H1 2021. New office supply in these markets during the first half of 2021 totalled just over 640,000 sq m, with a further 2.2 million sq m currently under active development and due for delivery over the next 2-3 years.
Demand for modern office space
“As a result of recent disruptions related to the pandemic, the biggest office markets in CEE in 2020 saw a YoY declines of up to -30% on average in both Gross and Net demand. The first half of 2021 has seen similarly subdued results, however, some markets, including Warsaw, have started to see green shoots of recovery. In the first half of 2021, tenants leased over 1.1 million sq m of modern office space across the capitals of the 15 CEE countries. The highest level of activity was recorded in Warsaw (249,300 sq m), followed by Prague (183,300 sq m) and Budapest (172,900 sq m),” said Kevin Turpin, Regional Director of Research for CEE at Colliers.
“It is important to highlight that a great deal of demand, or occupier activity, across the CEE markets comes from the modern business services sector which is among the largest office occupier groups. To give an indication of how important or how large this sector is, if we assume an average of 10 sq m per employee, then the sector could occupy well in excess of 10 million sq m, or the equivalent of ca. 35% of the 15 CEE capital city market stock. The spread of these BSS centres however is of course much wider than the capital city markets, particularly in the regional markets of Poland, Czech Republic and Romania,” added Kevin Turpin.
The supply of modern office space
The largest supply of modern office space is located in Warsaw (ca. 6.1 million sq m), Budapest (ca. 4 million sq m) and in Prague (3.7 million sq m). The largest increase of new supply in H1 2021 was noted in Warsaw where developers delivered 10 office projects with a total area of 226,300 sq m. Looking ahead, the largest volume of new, modern office space under construction at the end of H1 2021 was in Budapest (350,000 sq m), Warsaw and Sofia.
The widest choice of available office space at the end of H1 2021 was noted in Sarajevo (30%), Tirana (16.5%) and Sofia (16%) following sizeable new deliveries relative to the size of these markets. The lowest vacancy rates at the end of H1 2021 were recorded in Ljubljana (4%), Zagreb (5%) and Tallin (7.3%).
For many countries in the region, business services have become one of the leading sources of FDI and one of the biggest employment sectors, now estimated to employ well in excess of 1 million people in the markets covered in this report.
“Although the double-digit annual employment growth in the sector in many countries has reportedly slowed in recent times to mid to high single digits, the CEE region is still attracting new investment and seeing the expansion of existing centres. This success, which is set to continue for many years to come, is largely thanks to the regions labour pool of well-educated and highly talented people with a very broad range of language skills,” commented Elias van Herwaarden, Head of Location Strategy for EMEA at Colliers.
From office to social anchor
“BSCs have done well in taking-on additional work from their corporate front-lines throughout the pandemic. But off the record, many of their leaders will admit “it all worked better and faster” during the days that they could have people brainstorming face-to-face in a room for a day or two. There is also the matter of talent management. The more successful BSCs typically put significant effort into company branding and increasingly lavish chill-out spaces and workplaces to create a team feeling and a sense of belonging, ” added Elias van Herwaarden.
“Work will never be the same as it became detached from physical location, however companies need common denominators to ensure they keep people within their gravity field - one of those will be the office as social anchor,” explained Marius Ivanauskas, Head of Group Business Services at Telia Company.