• Saturday, March 02, 2024
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BusinessDay

Office market hurting as employee-preference for hybrid work grows

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The story of the office market in Nigeria is not cheering at the moment as the market is hurting on downtime arising from challenges that include employee-preference for hybrid work. The preference, which is growing, is compelling firms to reduce their space requirements.

For investors in large size office buildings, therefore, it does seem that the effect of Covid-19 is not yet over as these buildings have continued to record low occupancy rate which started from the days of the pandemic when social distancing rules were observed.

Presently, the office market is adjusting to the shift in demand from large office spaces to small sized flexible office spaces typically prevalent in low rise office buildings, residential buildings conversion and coworking spaces.

For reasons of the employee-preference for hybrid work, many firms are embracing flexible work models to retain talents. Occupiers location preferences remain strong for Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Lekki in Lagos. These are areas with good infrastructure and easy connectivity in terms of transportation, meaning that they are good investment destinations anytime.

According to a recent report on the office space market in Nigeria, Grade A occupancy rates are at record lows due to oversupply. The report says the first half of 2023 saw take up from coworking operators and tech firms. “Requests are increasing from microfinance and digital banks looking to either set up a physical office space or merge smaller office spaces,” the report says.

To underscore the growing investor-interest in the coworking space, the report reveals that Regus, a serviced office provider, opened a new coworking space in Gbagada, its 8th location in Lagos. Ventures Park opened its first Lagos centre in Mansard Place, Victoria Island. A new coworking provider, The Adrenalina, began operations in Q1 2023 located in Yaba.

David Mbah, co-founder/CEO, MDS Properties, explained to BusinessDay that the rise in the demand for co-working space is driven chiefly by flexibility in occupancy and the convenience in rent payment. “Here, we pay rents per months, meaning that you can move on if the place no longer appeals to you,” Mbah, whose office is one of the coworking spaces in Ikoyi, Lagos, said.

Over the years, the office market has been groaning under the weight of supply over-hang, leading to significant drop in occupancy rate and also in both asking and achievable rents from over $1000 per square metre to between $700 and $750 per square metres.

Ayo Ibaru, CEO, Northcourt Real Estate, noted that the completion of Centre Point in Ikoyi, Lagos has added 18,500sqm to the existing supply stock of Grade A office buildings while the office segment of the N12-billion 14-floor Trinity Towers was also added to prime office stock.

“Construction Kaiser completed the LAPO microfinance bank building in Maryland, Lagos. The building is an eight-story commercial structure with multifunctional floors,” he said

According to him, the integration of sustainability features in the global property market is the adoption of green certifications, pointing out that the entry of international concerns with sustainability goals has also influenced leading local firms.

Property managers, he said, were focusing on optimising energy, water and waste efficiency to improve occupier satisfaction and attainment of green certifications. “United Bank for Africa signed a long-term power agreement with Renewvia to design, finance, own and operate solar microgrid systems for its branches,” he said.