Boom in UK co-working as flexible workspace take-up triples in top cities

Property & Construction | Reports

Demand for flexible workspace across the UK saw record growth in 2017, according to the latest research from Cushman & Wakefield.

The firm’s Co-working 2018 report reveals the extent to which the sector has evolved and matured.

Central London saw a record 2.5m sq ft of lettings signed for flexible workspaces, more than 21% of all commercial office leases in the capital.

The average rent paid by flexible workspace providers across the capital also rose to £65.50 per sq ft in 2017, a 10% increase on the previous year.

Around two thirds of the UK flexible workspace market is outside London, and the UK’s largest cities saw significant growth in the take-up of space for co-working, as the trend for flexible workspaces spread well beyond the capital for the first time.

Take-up of flexible workplace in the UK’s largest regional cities, including Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, and Newcastle, increased from 2% of all city centre lettings in 2016 to 7.5% of take-up in 2017.

This increase was largely driven by the rapid expansion of WeWork and Spaces, which were responsible for more than half of the year’s take-up of co-working space across the UK.

Elaine Rossall, Head of UK Offices Research & Insight at Cushman & Wakefield, commented: “Flexible workspaces are now a vitally important part of the UK economy, and an increasingly familiar presence in our cities. The popularity of co-working has seen demand continue to grow exponentially across the country, both for fast growing SMEs and increasingly also for larger and more established companies.”

Growth Outlook

Over the next year the sector will see increasing demand for co-working space from larger businesses, as corporate occupiers embrace a more dynamic co-working culture or shorter and lower-risk leases.

Uncertainty around Brexit may be driving demand for flexible workspace in London, as major corporates look to avoid long-term space commitments.

With demand for flexible workspace in Central London almost doubling from 853,178 sq ft in 2016 to 2,484,000 sq ft in 2017, there is significant pressure growing on the supply of space in the capital to meet this demand.

The pace of growth in the market will be limited by operators such as WeWork reaching critical mass, while limited supply of new space will act as an inhibitor to those seeking larger spaces.

Cushman & Wakefield predicts that in future, every large multi-let building will have a proportion allocated to flexible workspace as landowners look to take advantage of growing demand and meet the needs of potential occupiers.

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