While the office space transformation had begun long before the pandemic, the epidemiological situation triggered the topic of a functional and modern office. The key principles of future office spaces will be their safety, functionality and hi-tech nature. Colliers International has summoned IT market players for the third time to the Office Gigabytes conference to find out which strategies are used by IT companies in the era of COVID reality, with top managers of key market players highlighting changes in their approach to office space arrangement at the time of pandemic.
27 November 2020, Saint-Petersburg – Contrary to the spring forecasts, the office market has not seen a dramatic exodus of occupiers. In the third quarter the vacancy rate stood at 6.7% in Saint-Petersburg, up only 1.6 p.p. year-on-year.
According to Colliers International, IT companies are still among the principal occupants of St. Petersburg’s offices, given that in three recent years the IT cluster has leased ca. 120,000 sq. m of quality offices or a third of all rented office space. Overall the hi-tech cluster (IT and telecom) has absorbed around 18% of the entire office space available on the market, with more than a third companies occupying more than 2,000 sq. m, on average. For the first time Colliers International presented a digital map of St. Petersburg’s biggest IT companies. With IT businesses traditionally seen as most demanding and human-friendly in the context of office space layout, it’s particularly revealing to get an idea of the vision of hi-tech firms relative to their future offices.
The key point that became obvious during the conference is that the office is no longer a place of control. Effective performance of the staff is more important for most companies than the physical presence of their employees, carrots replacing the “stick” across the board. Proper motivation and inspiration make an employee maximally efficient, even when they work from their homes.
“The experience gained in the course of remote operations has demonstrated that the hybrid format will be most relevant to modernity. We do not plan to get rid of office work, though; on the contrary: we carry on expanding our office space. This is part of our strategy: we do realize that we won’t constantly work from homes,” says Anna Latkina-Turkova, Director of Administrative Department at Mail.ru Group. “The pandemic has adjusted the planning of office space. For instance, we ramp up the technological function creating the zoom room where people can gather and conduct teamwork, brainstorming, etc.”
According to Colliers International Working from Home Survey, more than 40% of all respondents stated that they are ready to work from their homes 3-4 days a week. Slightly more than 20% answered that they’d like to work outside the office 1-2 days a week. At the same time the forced lockdown emphasized the main advantages of the office. Most respondents said that they have almost no time time for personal communication with colleagues in the office and lack clear-cut separation between work and private life.
“At the present moment about 10% of the company’s employees work in the office. We are getting ready for a new reality: when the situation gets back to normal we’ll offer our employees the chance to choose, where they’d like to work, and occasionally change the chosen work format if need be. It has turned out that 40% of all employees would like to use the hybrid work format, but spend most of the time in the office,” shares Igor Chupalov, CEO Deutsche Telekom IT Solutions. With that in mind, the company never stopped hiring new employees, Mr. Chupalov notes. Being one of the most dynamic economic sectors, the IT industry is desperate for new talent and trained staff. As per hh.ru, one vacancy in Saint-Petersburg is claimed by 3-4 candidates, which is insufficient competition.
Competition for personnel in 2020 is getting tougher due to the remote work trend. “In IT and telecom the number of vacancies, where the possibility of working from home is mentioned, has increased in October 2020 by 217% year-on-year. The availability of remote options expands the geographical span of the search and stiffens competition for IT specialists in other regions, including due to cross-industry demand,” points out Yulia Sakharova, Director for North-Western Region at HeadHunter.
“Forced remote operations, besides the new challenges, also open new opportunities: this is a perfect time for all office transformation plans to transpire. What has long been planned but encountered difficulties on the part of management and personnel, can now be carried out,” says Igor Temnyshev, Regional Director, Construction Management Department at Colliers International, in charge of the Proptech line of business.
“Everyone is in need of greater flexibility. People want companies to choose the person rather than work. And the person gives as much as s/he feels necessary, depending on their being immersed in the process. Thanks to this philosophy, we do not need to “sell” the idea of workspace rearrangement, since it’s understandable to all employees. If earlier some changes caused a wave of resentment and resistance, we are now aware that the office is destined to change. In particular, in place of privacy zones that were once popular more collaboration and interaction is to be fashioned,” Mila Intyakova, Facility Manager at Quest believes.
“We are getting rapidly digitized, which implies new requirements for office space planning and teamwork,” notes Ekaterina Aridova, Head of Procurement Support at Gazpromneft-Logistics. “We have already introduced a flexible approach as well as a special hot-desk where all of our personal belongings are locked in special storage cells. This enables to clear more space for other office functions that could be of great use – e.g. for client zones and for meetings with other team members.
“We are on the verge of a new transformation. It took several decades to depart from walled offices with hallways towards open space and later to the activity-based office. Obviously, the future office layout will be dominated by unattached or unassigned workplaces. Yet for now it’s not quite clear what sharing ratios will be used and how much of the currently existing activity space is left,” concludes Director of Interior Department at ABD Architects. According to ABD Architects, the offices of IT firms are currently dominated by open space zones which account for about 62% of total office space, with meeting rooms accounting for 8.96% of all space whereas archives, cloakrooms, storage systems and server rooms occupy 5.11% of the office space. Collaboration zones take up 4.02% of all space, conference halls – 1.01%, playrooms – 0.71%.
Although future office configurations depend on the company’s specific tasks, certain components will soon become mandatory for a modern office: unassigned workstations, informal zones (30-40% of total office space), multipurpose mobile solutions, hi-tech, energy efficiency, cozy interior and certainly a focus on occupational health.
The Office Gigabytes analytical platform and annual conference created for IT companies to communicate, exchange their experiences, and arrange networking on office space development has been organised by Colliers International with support from HeadHunter – the largest head-hunting and employment service. Year after year the conference becomes a discussion venue and club, gathering IT industry’s key players in one place. In 2020 the Gigabytes have been held in a new online format. Specifically for this event Colliers International has created a landing where you may get acquainted with relevant data on the IT labour market and property options: http://colliersevents.ru/