London office landlord Canary Wharf Group is launching a flexible office service, in the latest sign of how changes to work patterns during the pandemic are shaking up the market.
The new service, called MadeFor, at 40 Bank Street in Canary Wharf, could grow to as much as 20 per cent of the group’s portfolio over the next few years, according to Shobi Khan, the group’s chief executive.
Its first tenant, Wall Street bank Citigroup, is taking 95,000 square feet of space. Offices leased under the new brand will be fitted out according to the specifications of the tenant, operated and serviced by CWG and let on more flexible terms than a traditional lease, a similar model to that used by flexible office companies such as WeWork.
The move is a departure for the group. It developed and owns most of the Canary Wharf financial district in east London, which is full of corporate headquarters characterised by large floors, banks of desks and corner offices for executives.
But, like a number UK landlords, it is making changes to its portfolio in response to shifting patterns of work. Khan said the move reflected an “evolution of the customer and how they’re thinking about their space”.
Employees are now expected to spend more time working remotely so businesses are reducing the number of desks required and expanding communal areas, partly to attract employees in to work.
MadeFor offices can have “breakout space, collaboration space, anything the company wants”, said Khan, including beer taps if the tenant requests them.
By taking a more hands-on approach to operating the building — offering services such as cleaning, maintenance and catering — CWG said it could also improve the emissions profile of its buildings, a question that is high on the agenda of tenants with net zero carbon targets.
Citi is moving thousands of staff into 40 Bank Street while it undertakes a £100mn refurbishment of its neighbouring skyscraper, a project partly aimed at improving the building’s green credentials.
Moving to a flexible office gives the bank a chance to try out technology and ways of working that it might use in the refurbished offices, and provides opportunities to experiment while the future of work remains so uncertain, said Kathryn Harrison-Thomas, head of Citi’s property services in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
“We’re seeing how people work prior to making some very significant commitments in the main building. If people want to work a couple of days at home and three in the office, that means we don’t need 9,000 desks any more,” she said.