Interaction's Thrivalism

Opportunity and Optimism with Abi Groves, The Instant Group

March 01, 2022 Interaction Season 3 Episode 1
Opportunity and Optimism with Abi Groves, The Instant Group
Interaction's Thrivalism
More Info
Interaction's Thrivalism
Opportunity and Optimism with Abi Groves, The Instant Group
Mar 01, 2022 Season 3 Episode 1

Episode Synopsis:  

Despite the initial “office is dead” gloom of the pandemic’s beginning, the signs are showing that demand for high-quality workplaces is still high, although driven by different imperatives; employee-first, geographically diverse and experience-driven.  


In this episode, we’ll explore the key forces that will be driving the commercial property market in 2022, focusing on how landlords can adapt the way they generate income, offer value and align with the rapidly-changing expectations of tenants and lease operators.   

Thanks for listening! Check out Interaction's website for more workplace culture content and case studies (or just follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter).

Show Notes Transcript

Episode Synopsis:  

Despite the initial “office is dead” gloom of the pandemic’s beginning, the signs are showing that demand for high-quality workplaces is still high, although driven by different imperatives; employee-first, geographically diverse and experience-driven.  


In this episode, we’ll explore the key forces that will be driving the commercial property market in 2022, focusing on how landlords can adapt the way they generate income, offer value and align with the rapidly-changing expectations of tenants and lease operators.   

Thanks for listening! Check out Interaction's website for more workplace culture content and case studies (or just follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter).

Interaction’s Thrivalism - Abi Groves Instant Group 

Abi Groves:So it's just opened everyone up to having the conversations be a little bit more realistic about what they're both looking to achieve between landlords and operators, but also the landlords being a bit more engaged and understanding that Flex is here to stay.  

And if anything, it's really escalated as people come back more into the office and look at the value of the space that they're coming into work every day and where they need their employees to come back in.” 


Dieter Wood: Hello and welcome to Thrivalism. I'm Dieter Wood, and this is Interaction’s podcast focussed on making the world of work a better place through creating thriving communities, careers and, of course, workspaces.  


Today, I'm talking with Abi Groves, Director of Operator and Landlord Solutions at the Incident Group. The Instant Group are using their global reach and unrivalled market data to help organisations across the world rethink their attitude to workspace. Despite the initial “Office is Dead”  gloom of the pandemic, the Instant Group has seen rising demand for high quality workplaces driven by new imperatives; employee first, geographically diverse and experience-driven.  


In this episode, we explored the key forces evolving the commercial property market in 2022, focussing on how landlords can adapt the way they generate income, offer value and align with the rapidly changing expectations of tenants and flex lease operators alike it's a really good chat, and I hope you enjoy it.  


Abigail, welcome to Thrivalism. Great to have you on board. Thank you for having me. Really excited to have you here. 


Abi Groves: Excited to be here as well. 


Dieter Wood: So Instant Offices will be known to lots of our listeners as a business which connects occupiers and landlords to spaces that kind of really fit their needs. But really, it's a much more global organisation than that. It has far wider service offering than that. It would be really useful for you to kind of explain exactly that proposition of instant offices, how global it is, the types of clients you work for, and I suppose how your role fits into that. 


Abi Groves: Absolutely. So the Instant Group started in 1999 and originally was started as a web brokerage. So everything you said hit the nail on the head, really looking after that occupier client and finding them space in the flexible kind of traditional market. And since then, it's really grown to lots of different strains. In a nutshell, the core areas of our business are flex desks, so again still connecting them occupiers with flexible workspace globally. We also have a managed arm in the business where some of our more corporate clients, Amazon being a big key one that we openly work with across the globe. Where we can't necessarily facilitate the right space in the Flex market for them, we go out, transact on their behalf and deliver space for them. And the great difference is that as we go wherever they want to be, you know, we've got really great stories of building stuff on car parks in Israel and things like that. So that's one arm of the business. And then another area of the business where primarily my role is based, Operator and Landlord Solutions is using and facilitating all of the data and insight we've been able to build over the 20 plus years through flex transactions or these managed supports that we've done and use that to support landlords looking to get into the Flex market, partnering with the right operators who are looking to expand, but also ultimately helping again that occupier client find the right space for them in the right market. You mentioned we are global, we have 13 offices across the globe at the moment and that's really driven by where our managed clients want us to be and we build a team around it there. And we're in places such as like Dallas, New York, Australia, Israel. So we've got quite good coverage and consistently growing. It's something that's a rapidly growing team, about 250 heads across the globe at the moment. 


Dieter Wood: Interestingly, I suppose you talk a lot about data there in terms of the work that you do, and I know you use data massively to do prediction and provide reports for landlords, et cetera. How much more difficult has it been to collect that data in the pandemic and be able to leverage the use of it? I mean, there'd be more desire for it, I'm guessing, but more difficult to collect. 


Abi Groves: Honestly, I think actually the pandemic really opened the conversation lines a little bit more pre-pandemic. There was still some resistance on some landlords conventionally to explore this market or to be open and share their interest in it. And the same with some operators who didn't feel the need necessarily to open the doors and let us in to know everything about things like their occupancy numbers. Obviously, through the deals that we closed, we know about transactional rates and rates of being listed at. But there's obviously still a market out there where there's other agents and brokers doing the deals. So if anything, it really kind of brought the industry together when it comes to Flex and then really start to introduce the landlord into it more. Because everybody was in the same situation at the beginning, we were all extremely unsure. You know, the first six months was “the office is dead and we're going to work from home forever”. And then after about 12 months, I think we were “right, we all want to get back into the office”. And from this perspective, we really saw a big peak in enquiries. But admittedly, the decision-making process still taken a little bit longer due to uncertainty, but definitely increased demand for data actually right there. 


If anything, we just felt people felt like it was a more safe environment because we all knew we was asking for the right reasons. So if anything, it really gave us a chance to hit a pause on some other projects in the business. Really explore this side a little bit more and get more into the teeth of some things we've not been able to do previously when it comes to the history of some of our data and things change in light, square foot rates allocated per head and changing rates in different markets and able to do that globally as well. Again, that little pause gave us the time to really work with some of our regional teams and explore that. We're very confident and strong in some markets, but there's some more. We're still growing and it's still a learning curve for us, even though we have teams out there. So it gave us that time to speak to them, operators out there and find out who was trying to still get into the market and what can they do. So in a nutshell, I think it really kind of helped, to be honest, open everyone feel happy speaking openly with each other, the majority of the cases. 


Dieter Wood: So in terms of that data, you're collecting the hard data, like the utilisation rates, the occupancies, square footage per person that people are allocating to different spaces, et cetera. How easy are you able to fit that with the kind of more anecdotal data you're collecting in terms of staff surveys and user surveys and occupier surveys, et cetera? Because people are not talking, they're talking from a point of view, which has been so shifted in the last 18 months, et cetera. 


Abi Groves: So for us, another of the business where we're really lucky to have a very large team is where we've placed particular clients in our managed offering or even some of the larger corporate clients we've placed in Flex. We have a massive team of account managers who literally live and breath that business and their flex search for them for the duration that they know they want to work with us. So during the first part of the pandemic, will we really did as well as I mentioned, stepping back and spending some time discussing things with operators as we also did that with occupier clients. We did lots of surveys with them. For us, they were the priority. We obviously have a great outreach with landlords or occupiers operators across the globe, but everything we do ultimately is to fulfil and support that occupier client. So we really spend a lot of time working with them and understanding what is important for them to come back into the office. So it also shifted some of the people we would usually talk to, which was a really interesting trend for us. So when it came normally to decision making, you would have maybe a certain manager, an office manager and then the finance person coming in and ticking the boxes.  


We really saw an increase in Chief of People and HR types of roles coming in where they'd really taken the time to speak to employees and appreciate that hybrid working is here. Now it's here to stay, but we still want to go into an office. How can we make it valuable of your time to come in? How can we, as a business, really now engage and listen to you? And whether that came down to just how the space was designed, which became one of the biggest trends we saw around collaboration space, more meeting rooms, more phone booths, but then also extra services that they could really give to employees in terms of what else can be in the space around, you know, food and beverage facilities and everything like that. The technology that helped them connect because we're not all going to be in office at the same time. So you're going to have three people in a meeting room, but three people using a platform like this. So we really spent the first part of the pandemic reaching out to our clients so that we could then collaborate that with the numbers to start the data, to then give that all round 360 view. Hopefully, you know, operators and landlords who are looking at the market and thinking about what they were going to do to try and drive their own occupancy. 


Dieter Wood: I mean, you talk a little bit there about the decision-making process of taking spaces become longer and involving more people and more considerations than it was pre-pandemic. Exactly what we've seen in the market that we operate in in terms of people are making their commitments, which are quite high cost to their business. How difficult is that decision process been, I suppose, as we've got longer in the pandemic or has it become easier as we've got longer in the pandemic? 


Abi Groves: I think we've still seen probably in the last year, which feels mad to say, you know, that we're a couple of years into this pandemic, but in the last year for us. Speaking more from the sales team who do the majority of the Flex deals, the decision making process is still longer. We've not necessarily seen it kind of come backwards in short time, but now it's more around the first time around. It was a longer decision making process because we still felt so uncertain about what ways we are going to come and things like that, whereas now it's more around finding that right type of space, and there's so many options in the market now.  

Again, kind of silver lining of the pandemic is landlords really open their doors to the Flex market, and the Flex operate really opened up their commercial models in different ways to do these partnerships. Therefore, the occupier clients who we’re here to serve have so many options out there. We're finding that they're being quite specific, rightly so, because if they're going to commit to the right space for a potentially longer contract than we may have seen pre-pandemic, but it being the right space and is it connected to a secondary hub now because they're going to facilitate the option for their employees to work in their home because, you know, they don't need to do that two hour commute every day, but they still want an office having that hub, but still having that secondary hub that they can connect to. So there's for us commercially, it's been better because, you know, they're looking for the right space, hopefully, which might mean it's bigger or it's connected to a second one. And it's not necessarily just because they're not sure about another lockdown or anything of their own commercials, to be honest. It's just they've got so many options in the market, and they're being very prescriptive now around what is important to them compared to what was important maybe a couple of years ago. 


Dieter Wood: I mean, you have referenced there was a lot of noise wasn't there about the spoke and hub model right at the start of the pandemic. And that conversation, I think, has changed a little bit, which you referenced a little bit there. How important for the Flex operators now and for the landlords that they're working with? Do you think it is that they have a presence in every regional city or certainly the regional cities that are linked, the spokes to London? 


Abi Groves: I think obviously it's always a benefit. Additionally, some of the deals that we will do with some Flex operators, the winning here for while the client move forward with them was the network they had. But that could be a network that was solely based in London. It could be an international network, which is why some operators have the volumes that they do. But for me, I think it really goes back to what does that operator want to be? What is their brand? You mentioned as well, it keeps changing. The trends keep changing. And at the moment, three days in the office, today at home, some people working from home permanently, some don't want to go back into the office in terms of the. One woman nearby. I still think, you know, we've got a year, you know, now where if we got from tomorrow technically and back to normal and everything, if we did it from that, if we take a year from tomorrow would be really interesting to see. I think on both sides of the fence from the occupier clients really potentially wanting to go back in and how that might affect the market from the operator and the landlord perspective. So to answer your question, I mean, it's always a benefit.  

But I think, you know, this is not to say the operators, we choose not to do that either any kind of disadvantage because at the same time, you've got some operators who aren't in big cities and that's been their game pretty much before the pandemic as well. They've just benefited a little bit from people slowly kind of putting the toe back in the water, so to speak. So again, it just goes back to what they really want to be, where they want to be in the market because of everyone's offering the same, then that's not given the choice to the occupier client as well. 


Dieter Wood: So in terms of a little bit, there is about the operators having to change their models a lot. I've seen this with a lot of our clients. The models are really, really changing with the landlords and occupiers and the people they're working with. I suppose what have been the biggest fundamental shifts over the pandemic in terms of those flex operators working with landlords? And what are the things that are creating the success for both of those players? 



Abi Groves: So specifically in my role, previous to the role I'm doing now was purely landlord driven. So really trying to support landlords in entering the flex market, whether it be self delivery, doing it themselves and bringing all the supply chain and for them or finding that operator partner in the market. A lot of the time, the real big stumbling block was if they wanted to partner with an operator, it was the commercial model they were looking to go down. Operators were quite cemented in what they wanted to do because it worked for them historically, or it was the only kind of backing they had. So it was quite hard to do the matchmaking, I'd say a couple of years ago. And when we did have winds, you know it was successful, but it was normally kind of leasehold or but now we were seeing operators really look at their offering. So had it been management agreements, landlords were open to that, but it was like a two way street. You've got to show some skin in the game and where's the risk on your side? I'm happy to give you access to this fantastic building or this building that just works really well with your network. And I want to be a part of it, but landlords completely appreciate that they don't necessarily have all the back office to operate it. Sometimes the brand, as I keep coming back to getting your brand out in the market, is such a saturated market now, which is really exciting for us. But at the same time, it's hard. Maybe for sometimes them emerging operators, whether it be a landlord driven one or in their own right. So I think, if anything, it's both sides of the fence looking at their models, looking at what could work for them, where are they willing to take the risk and just tweaking that? So you're seeing some more joint ventures coming into play, looking at profit share models instead. 


And that gives that landlord the chance to maybe have a couple of years in the market under the headline of that particular brand benefited from the revenue they're going to get on the square foot right by offering Flex in that building probably facilitate what some of their traditional clients need as well if they need overspill space or access to meeting rooms, co-working, acknowledging that he supports that side for them as well, and then making a decision that they're going to stick with that partnership or if they learnt a lot and they try and launch it themselves. 


So for us, it's just really kind of turned into a bit of a fantastic grey area because the lines are really merging and everyone's kind of open to the conversations. Some operators who did management agreements for years performed really well and actually and are now looking at taking leases because that was always the goal for them. But management agreements were the way to get their foot in the door of the market. So it just opened everyone up to having the conversations being a little bit more realistic about what they're both looking to achieve between landlords and operators, but also the landlords being a bit more engaged to it and understanding that Flex is here to stay. And if anything, it's really escalated as people come back more into the office and look at the value of the space that they're coming into work every day and where they need their employees to come back in. 


Dieter Wood: One thing I've have seen changes is that landlords are expecting there to be some sort of flex offering or co-working type space offered on the on the lower floors of a building on the kind of least desirable floors. And that's kind of creeping upwards. Do you think the landlord now when they're looking forward, are expecting more and more - just the whole building to be flex space and the kind of the days of the traditional lease are numbered? Or are we still going to see those big occupiers taking big spaces in certain places? 


Abi Groves: For me again, it kind of links back to that operator, their brand they're offering. There's a couple of operators who really love that ground floor space, and it really feeds in what they're trying to deliver in a community and a network. Some want to be behind the scenes benefit from traditional space, their client's name on the board downstairs. I think the majority of the conversations that we're having with landlords and this is globally is that everyone's looking at mixed use, but slightly different from what we may have said. That was a couple of years ago. So I touch on it lightly. Before a lot of our current clients were looking at how employees were asking for things all to be under one roof in my building, I can walk through the door, going to the gym, have a shower, grab a coffee, get lunch, go sit on my desk and I'd never have left the building. You have gone between one to two floors and then we've got a roof terrace, so in the evening we can go and have events up there. So we're seeing a lot of landlords looking at their buildings and there still were demand. There's still a need for traditional space. I'm not here to say that's going to ever go. I think that's always going to be a market because again, we utilise that market for our current clients when they want to grow somewhere and the flex market can't necessarily facilitate it. 


So I think landlords looking at buildings acknowledging the benefits of having a flex option again, we get a lot of landlords coming to us saying that they're happy to have Flex come in and a couple of their existing clients traditional in the building are really asking for it and saying, Well, you, we want this and we're not going to take another 5000 square foot for even two to three years because we just don't know how this project is going to go and we don't know how much we're going to expand, but we really need the ability in this building to have that option. And then a lot of operators now more than ever bring it in kind of their own food and beverage services in-house, giving them access to their community and networking events they might have or just events in general. And it's landlords looking at and acknowledging that and thinking, Right, how can I best place that in here? And like I said, for self-delivery or partnering with the right operator for the market they're in? And is it just a case of they just want some workstations and be able to offer that to traditional client? Or, as I mentioned, does that client want everything, kind of all the bells and whistles and fully serviced and really in a type space with all them extra bits you can get with apps and things like that as well? 


Dieter Wood: I mean, in terms of like the landlords, it feels to me like the landlords have shifted more in terms of finding the right fit in the market than the operators have. They've just had to move from a much more traditional place, whereas the operators were quite forward thinking anyway, I suppose. Where have you seen? Is that correct, that assumption that the landlords have had to shift more? 


Abi Groves: I'd say in terms of they've had to really speed up their decisions around if they want to get into the Flex market. So again, prior to the pandemic, my world was purely landlords and consulting and supporting them if they wanted to do it. And there's always been a question of, OK, maybe I should. How should I do it, but not necessarily a need to do anything immediately, because in the back of their heads, they always still had some retained agents, you know, really working hard on letting that space. Historical conventional clients were already within their portfolios that could stand and move over. And for them, you know, it could warrant having a void space for a year to two years because they would expect a 15-year lease to come through the door, whereas in the flex market space, being void for a couple of months could be really detrimental. And even then, if you get someone through the door, the whole point of flexible is that you can offer six months, so you're still not kind of necessarily reaping that that revenue back. So I think, if anything, it just really escalated a lot of the conversations and escalated that decision making. And I think now more, you know, they're really looking at things like the brand and you know who is right to sit within their building. So there are slightly different stages. Some are really starting from scratch with this and having to really kind of back-pedal to get to where they want to be now. They've really acknowledged that this is the right way for them to go to market and then some are already halfway there. But now they're just really thinking about, Okay, if I'm going to do it, I actually want to do it right because I now see this as long term. 


At the start of the pandemic, a lot of the conversations were just panic ones that right, let's get someone in. People keep talking about Flex a little bit more now. I want to let some of my space, but it has to be leasehold. And also the operators are certainly thinking, Well, I need to hold onto my revenue and I've got lots of empty buildings. Best case, yes, I do want to expand, but let's see how it goes. And then that's what's really kind of opened up. Then conversations, as I mentioned previously and got people to explore their own models around how they could partner them. Yes, leasehold work for you, landlord, but that doesn't work for that operator. But you understand that brand is great and it works well, and everything they can offer would fit in really well if you're offering. So if you both really want it to work and where we can sit as an intermediate partner is go all up the data and the insight we have shows in this market in this location. You know, there's a lack of supply or demand, and there's not enough vacant space to facilitate that. We think this partnership could really work. Here's kind of the stats and the data and our insight to prove that. And then now let's see how we can support you making that partnership work. 


Dieter Wood: Is it too early yet thinking about longer term, and I'm sure the property market is one of a long-term commitment for landlords and developers and investors? Is it too early now to have firm long term estimates of the total space that's going to get utilised? Are we going to see more conversions, particularly somewhere like London of space being converted from offices to other uses in some of the more prime locations? I'm thinking of conversations I've heard where people are saying that we're going to see large office buildings where certain floors will go to residential, will go to hotel use or something like that. Are we going to see more of that? I mean, is some of that going to come under the kind of the Flex model because people will want, as we talked about FNB gyms, evening entertainment, space venues? Are we just going to add Airbnb type accommodation and hotel accommodation into that mix as a location? 


Abi Groves: It's really interesting. You raised the topic of hotels being in flex space. So I mean, historically talking in London-centric, there's a couple of buildings where their older buildings, so they've got a flat or somewhere for someone sleeping them because I believe, like years ago, the rule was that a business centre manager had to have somewhere to sleep, you know, and I've worked for a couple of operators where that's been the case and therefore retained it and then offered it as a little kind of novelty to the occupier clients when they're coming in. But I've actually had a couple of conversations in the last couple of weeks with existing operators and then a couple who are looking to get into the market, purely focussing on wanting to have a hotel type element into the building as well. And I think that's another interesting area where there's industries colliding in a great way. I think the Flex market are looking at the hotel market and looking at how they manage occupancy and how they price their spaces based on demand. And are there any benefits to be added into here? And then, like I said, there's definitely operators and new people coming into the market looking and thinking, Right, well, how can I incorporate that in because even more so where people are now working from working from home, which might be a completely different country, and now we don't feel as restricted by the boundaries will. Having to sit in one office together is that you can get talent from anywhere. It used to be kind of finding the talent and trying to bring them in. It's like, now let's just go out, find the talent for a business and employer. That's great.  


And if you're going to bring them over to the London office or whatever, you want to be able to bring again all of that in-house and for it to be as easy as that, it's all within your Flex offering. That's great. So it's definitely something we've seen. It's been a conversation during the pandemic about the hotel modelling and operator modelling, but more so than ever, operators are looking at how can they bring that in to. In fact, you tick all the boxes and it be a big part of what they're doing in the same way the hotels historically had offered some element maybe of co-working. Some hotels do it really great already and are quite experienced in it and their partners we work very well with. But that's another conversation we were having internationally, actually, with some key hotels looking at their big, vast reception spaces and going, right, OK, how can I make this a more worthwhile space for the guest coming in? Not just because they were necessarily sitting there and thinking, Right, how can I make the most kind of pounds per square foot out of the space it was? I want people to come in here and be able to offer that to them and not just be the little desk in the tiny room that you know, they're trying to also kind of have dinner in and have meetings and whatever. It's giving them that option. So, you know, they were looking at that. They're not going to necessarily make a load of revenue out of that particular space, but it's going to benefit them on their other revenue lines when it comes to the hotel rooms and put them maybe ahead of the rest of the market in that area. 


Dieter Wood: Yeah, it's a really interesting model is evolving, is that where in hotels, where the bedrooms are getting smaller and smaller and smaller because there's kind of secondary space, so actually you're expecting to spend a lot more of your time in that lounge space. And it's co-working, it's meetings. It's all those sort of things. And actually, you just kind of sleep in your bedroom, which is quite an interesting route for those co-working models to go down. So I'm going to ask you, I suppose, a challenging question, which I think some of the conversations are around because when we ask some of the occupiers and the employees, this typical thing of two to three days a week is what we're seeing in the hybrid working model, and that seems to be becoming more and more natural flow. We'll see as people adapt as hopefully the pandemic drops away from us. But for large occupiers, do you think the challenge around the cost and the environmental impact of a space which is ultimately an office space could be used 40 60 percent less than it was pre-pandemic? If we were in there five days a week and now win, they're two to three days a week. How does that change the value proposition? And is that going to mean the costs as a proportion against salary costs will have to come down and we'll see the rents levelling out for landlords, et cetera. 


Abi Groves: I think from the conversations, we're having both sides of the fence. So from the Occupy clients to the operators and landlords is, I think everyone's still quite happy to wait it out at this point. At the moment, this is the model that works when we talk about the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and people are really embracing that because it's feeding well into their own lives and obviously at the moment, a big topic. I know generally kind of in the market, but something that we work really heavily on is sustainability and wellness.  And at the moment, if this is what employees need to come back into the office, then employers businesses are happy to facilitate and provide that, but also still from what we believe, we reckon, you know, in a year's time, that might be slightly different and there'll always be flexibility, but it would be different flexibility or whether it is specific days of the week that people are coming in, or it's a different hours that people choose to work. As I mentioned before, the great benefit now is that it just really opened the floodgates to find in talent from anywhere. It hasn't got any talent that's a two-hour commute away to the office. It could be talent that's anywhere, but that just means you like slightly different hours. And within my role, flexibility to me is being able to work the hours I need to to facilitate my personal life and also work with my colleagues who are in these different regions, which in a park that means you get an email really early on to jumping on them and then doing stuff later in the evening for some of my colleagues in the U.S.. 


But then there's this nice gap maybe later in the afternoon where I'm able to put my daughter to bed and you know, my work really supports and validates that and sees that as a need because therefore they get more out of me as an employee. Well, hopefully anyway, that we agree with that and that's across the board. And it's really similar to the conversations we have with our account clients who as a decision makers and the key stakeholders at the moment, it's certainly the pandemic of anything has really given everyone time to kind of pause the button on their lives. Personally, work wise, assess what's important and employers are able to go, right, OK, you know, we've got some really great people in our business. What do they need right now? And they want to we still need this office space. But at the moment, it's not always going to be full to the brim of everyone every day, but in a year's time, that could be different. So we still need to wait it out. And I think what's great is that the operator market, the Flex providers, acknowledge that they've had to go for it themselves. They've had to assess their own teams and what they do, whether it be head office team or those who are running the buildings, and they appreciate that. So they're looking at their own models. And we've obviously it's always been flexible, but they're looking at different things such as some approaches offer, say, it's a 20 person office, but there's 40 people within that business. 


You pay for that user space as you want. We know who's coming in and out so again, that they can really track that because if all then 40 people keep trying to come in or, you know, they can then have a look at again in a year's time, if you look right, you guys are obviously performing really well. You all want to get back in the office. How can we help you grow and been able to track that? So again, I think you're seeing operators relook at other technology alongside their offering to monitor that. So I think we've still got kind of, like I said, a year from tomorrow or whatever to really look at it. And it's going to vary between businesses and industries right down into that business. You know, some teams might just feel the need to not need to be it because of what they do. Whereas, you know, if you look at a sales team or maybe marketing, my team is all about relationships. You know, we need to be in the office. We need to work from operator space to really understand it and embrace it. So for us, you know, we're getting out there, but I think it's still time will tell to be honest about people's confidence and returning to the office. But operators are now understanding that and playing the long term game and embracing their clients and keeping them in-house and winning them over for long term gain. 


Dieter Wood: I would definitely agree with my gut feel is that you're asking people to estimate what life will be from a standpoint of when they're in a pandemic. And I think where on smaller business they're smaller businesses have been much more likely to be back in the office, and I think we've just seen more and more and more people in. And the corporates will follow, and I think that two to three days a week we'll start to to tip over into something a bit higher than that normal, the wellbeing benefits they'll get from the relationships, et cetera, of being in the office. There's lots of were there. 


Abi Groves: Yeah, exactly. You know, like I mentioned, when people are looking at their space and what they can offer within it and we're getting people asking things like having a yoga room or just like a meditation room or something that a couple of years ago might be seen as a bit of a novelty. But you know, now it is important if you want to take half an hour away from your desk and have somewhere to sit and quiet and just not look at your computer screen and answer personal emails or call someone or whatever it was. That's the kind of things that when the people want to come into the office, more said, OK, I've got the flexibility to do that, and you're giving me the option and the drive to want to come back in. And I think at the moment, obviously some businesses have taken new space and they've already answered and tick the boxes from their employee surveys and done that, whereas I'm still thinking about it. You know, some are still in contracts, so they've got time to think about it as well and really engage with their employees. So it's given them at that time. Everyone's just getting back into it. It's just finding out what's going to work for everyone and ultimately what works for the business. But everything is really been pushed out when it comes to wellness, and everything in the pandemic has been really reflected in the conversations we have with the accounts that we're placing. 


Dieter Wood: So I'm going to finish off. I was reading your predictions and it had a word in it which a buzz word which I fully embracing of millennipreneurs. If I said that correctly, 


Abi Groves: Yeah, I think it's very much to try and change the yeah, we'll take whatever version you're going to pronounce, but 


Dieter Wood: It's not the catchiest word I was trying to say earlier. Your own report talks about entrepreneurial cities and London only being number three on that report, and they're being topped by Manchester and Leicester. Bristol, of course, where we're from sitting at number five. Does that type of data when you're giving it to landlords, is that making them look at the regional markets much more than they traditionally have done? Because I mean, that's what I feel that from the Flex operators is that you're looking at that from every side. Is that something it feels different than 10 years ago? 


Abi Groves: Yeah, great, I think it's obviously the fact that I think it's technology has always been there, but we may never utilise it as much, and now you can connect with people so easily now at the drop of a hat and that that means that this talent can be anywhere. And obviously, for the longest time it was, London was just seen as the hub and then there was a couple of other cities, but everyone would commute in or if people worked from there. Mary was the base for that business was still in London, and that was the core focal point. And even for the operators I've worked for previously, there's been a small kind of regional aspect of where we've had our portfolios. But now I've left them and looking at as an outsider, you know, they've really escalated that and some of them have gone kind of international and looked at markets like in Germany as well because we're seeing that there's that there's that demand there for the people who are like, Well, you know, I'm a business person. I've got all these ideas. I've got loads of great backing. I just need somewhere really great to go and work and really kind of add that to my business. So definitely, you know, we've seen it and we've known it for a while. I think it's just being able to really present it and show in a nice way possible that London is obviously a great market for us, for so many different reasons. But we've always known about these other markets and we've always helped clients there and showing that to landlords to drive them into this area, whether it be self-delivery partnership, so many different levels of service now from being kind of, you know, just a really great design space with really strong kind of Wi-Fi.  


And again, that's what the occupier clients want. They know so much more now. And it's not just the case of traditional what service was, as we believed, it is everything in between which is serving really well for these grey areas and the partnerships between operators and landlords and what they want to offer. And now we can kind of say confidently, “Well, yeah, there's definitely that demand there” and these entrepreneurs who come in and it's a one two person kind of office space or co-working, can't they take who knows who they're going to be in a couple of years? We've really benefited from working really early days with companies like Uber and stuff like that when it was a kind of five six person office somewhere. And now you look at the scale of them, and we were really a part of that journey that feeds back to the landlord and operator. If you capture that really great business in the early days, the dream is first for any operator to grow. And that's where I think the operator landlord collaboration works really well. If it was one building and that person starts as a co-working space, then they outgrow that flex offering for the right reasons, whether it's space or the service. And then there's that flex option, so traditional option in the building that they can then grow into that and they put their name on the door and their names downstairs and everything like that.  

That means the landlord's been able to capture them with the support of that operator.  


Dieter Wood: Well, it's great to talk to you. I love that you share certainly our enthusiasm for the market and positivity for it. So to give you a few challenging questions there about, you know, some of the noise that's out there. But I mean, I think definitely we share a view that the office is fundamentally changing, but definitely here to stay. The appetite is there. Certainly, the landlords seem to be shifting to make it happen and to make modules to be really, really successful. So I think it's got a pretty bright future prediction for 2022. What was the one that we should definitely hang our hat on in order just to finish? 


Abi Groves: I think I don't want to pin down on one piece specifically. I think, you know, in terms of our predictions, I think it's going to be a really busy year, busy for lots of reasons in terms of the market growing, but also the shift. Like I've mentioned, it's still going to keep changing. So I think it's a wait and see. Keep your eye out. Obviously, we've got our kind of finger on the pulse of what's going on. But if I was to say that in terms of we've got obviously the set ones that are in the report, but for me, because I sit on all sides of the situation, which is fantastic and I get the 360 view, I think there's still going to be a lot of change in the next year. But for us and you know, that's just fantastic because there's so many more opportunities. And for us, ultimately, obviously so many more options for that occupy time. 


Dieter Wood: All right. Well, we'll leave it on that positive note. It's going to be exciting. 2022. I think you were brave for your predictions because who knows what could happen, but I definitely feel the office is here to stay and it's going to be stronger than ever. So thank you. Appreciate your time.  


Abi Groves: Great. Thank you. Thank you for inviting me. 


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