When searching for a new office for your business, there are of course a number of factors that you should consider. The location of the premises is undoubtedly important, as are aspects such as transport links, parking availability, aesthetic appeal and of course price. However, while low rents and favourable lease terms often reign supreme as the most sought-after facets of an office deal, recent trends suggest that many Cambridge-based business are placing less importance on financial considerations in favour of finding premises which offer a measure of luxury in the form of office amenities.

This is according to local real estate agency Cheffins, whose commercial property team has reported a “seismic shift” in the market, with businesses now bringing HR managers to view sites instead of finance directors and COOs in an effort to find a workspace which will enable them to attract and retain the top talent.

Cheffins’ data shows that demand for additional amenities such as gyms, crèches, pool tables, premium catering services and other luxuries have substantially increased in recent years as businesses scramble to meet the needs of an increasingly-demanding workforce. This has led to the creation of more than 100,000 sq ft of amenity space across three business and science parks in the Cambridge Cluster over the past ten years.

Philip Colligan, CEO of tech company Raspberry Pi, asserts that the increasingly intense competition between companies to attract and retain talented employees is the driving force behind this trend.

“The competition for talent in certain industries means that we have to look at every aspect of our offer for potential hires and this is something which has become more intense over the past five years,” he explained
“This really matters across all price ranges. Amenities are a big deal in technology companies as the counter-factual is situations where the drive for efficiency has led to overly cramped open plan office spaces with no collaboration space and a daily battle for meeting rooms.

“What people actually want varies from business to business, however flexibility is what is at the top of my list.

“You also need access to great food, leisure, childcare, health, fitness facilities. We see these as a top priority along with public transport options, parking and access to outdoor space.”

One notable example of this is the recent fit out of the offices of Cambridge gaming company Jagex. Cambridge-based design agency COEL were charged with creating the office based on a brief which called for a “bold, funky and inspirational” working environment with “breakout and downtime” space; the impressive premises are now equipped with several novel additions such as a purpose-built 'gaming cave', employee bar, soft seating area with pool table and piano, and high-end restaurant facilities.

Cheffins director Michael Jones says that for the science and tech industries in particular, the provision of amenities and an increased emphasis on work-life balance has become in essential tool when it comes to attracting and retaining staff, as is the provision of transport support for employees.

“This is what has been the catalyst for the competitive nature of building and refurbishing amenity space at some of the world’s most coveted business and science parks,” stated Mr Jones.

“As the letting agent at three of the region’s largest science parks we have seen a shift in behaviour with the HR manager now looking at a space to consider whether it provides enough facilities to be able to attract the best staff and this is now more important than the cost of the building.

“Whilst co-working space has been central to discussions around the office market, amenities on offer are what makes the difference for the science and tech sector. There is no need for bean bags and free fruit in this market, rather the emphasis is on providing a gym, a crèche, catering on site and bus and rail links.

“This change in the market has only occurred over the past 10 years with a particular peak of this behaviour in the past 24 months as Cambridge and its Science Parks solidifies its position as the go-to location for some of the world’s largest and most successful science and tech companies.

“We have also seen an increase in the numbers of top companies providing public transport, mainly buses, from Cambridge city centre to the Cambridge parks; Chesterford Research Park regularly runs 60 shuttle runs per day to bring staff from Cambridge train station to the park.”

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor as he continues to expand his horizons.
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