One of Cardiff’s first out-of-town office buildings has seen its occupancy soar, as companies seek to adapt to the COVID-19 restrictions by moving to smaller offices and a more flexible way of working.
Toward the end of last year, Quest House, a 22,000 sq ft Business Centre saw more deals concluded than in any similar three-month period prior to the Pandemic. Now, most of its ground floor is occupied, and additional offices have had to be built on the first floor to keep up with demand, as all small office suites were taken with the spate of new deals.
Sensing that more businesses were likely to want less space with fewer staff in each day, property owners WCR converted larger office suites into numerous smaller offices, resulting in nine new tenants taking a combined 3,100 sq ft of office space in the final three months of last year. The business centre then opted to create further additional suites to cope with the new demand.
Formerly known as Abacus house, Quest House in St Mellons was built in the late 80’s and at the time was the first of a new breed of buildings in Cardiff. It has since been renovated by developers WCR Property which invested over a half-a-million-pounds to modernise the building that had been vacant for 8 years prior to refurbishment.
One business that has embraced this new way of flexible working is booking and resource management firm, Zipporah. Managing Director, Emma Powell, said: “Previously, due to the nature of our business, we required a lot of space for machines, servers, clients and staff, which meant we had to take an office in an industrial area, which was less than ideal with few amenities nearby. However, following the COVID restrictions, the vast majority of our staff had to work remotely – and our productivity actually improved.
“We quickly found that people preferred working this way, and so the need to have everyone in the office just didn’t compute in the post covid world. The ability to operate more remotely has been proven and all our teams were working more coherently at home than when full-time in the office as they can focus on what they need to and arrange their time better.
“So when we decided to move to new offices it was with the idea of having less office space, but rotating our staff through it, using a hot-desking system. This gave staff the flexibility to spend some days working at home, but then catch up with colleagues at the office. It’s made a huge difference to the wellbeing of our staff and that’s been reflected in their output, something that will be of great benefit as we continue to grow our business.”
Property Director at WCR Property, Mike Wallace said: “Like any commercial property business we were very concerned about the impact on our business model when the COVID restrictions were introduced. We suspected that while there would be less demand for office space, larger companies, in particular, would still want an HQ. After all, being at home 24/7 just doesn’t work for everyone, and providing a covid-secure and flexible working environment works well for many different companies.
“Several years ago we adopted a model of converting large open offices into smaller, more affordable spaces and it has proven to be the perfect solution during the uncertainty of the COVID restrictions. Almost all of our existing suites have been occupied and we have had to create five new rooms to keep up with the demand.
“Many companies have realised they don’t need to spend a small fortune on office space when they can instead have half their team working remotely. This helps them cut their costs, as well as giving the staff the flexibility and wellbeing benefits of spreading their work time between the comfort of home and the social aspects of the office.
“We’ve already built a further five smaller offices and have commissioned another five, which would take us into almost full capacity at Quest House.”
WCR Property is part of WCR Group which has a portfolio of over 25 commercial properties in locations across Wales and England including Cardiff, Caerphilly, Bristol, Broadway, Reading, Northampton, High Wycombe, Andover, Ashford and Dover.