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“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

It’s been a confusing six months. The world seems to have transformed at an alarming rate, whilst standing very still.

As we try to make sense of what has happened, we are working out how to re-introduce a sense of normality to our lives. Going to hairdressers and shopping centres, seeing friends & family, enjoying that first refreshing pint.

One thing that seems to be recurring as we adjust to new ways of living and working is the sense that we were on this trajectory anyway. That the events of the past six months have simply accelerated things we were already expecting to happen. Things like flexible working and the changing function of the office as a space that delivers more than a desk to sit at from 9-5pm.

And, as we head back to work, we can identify ways in which a global pandemic and national lockdown could in fact have given some of us the kickstart we needed to be better than before.


Power to the people

Equipping the right people with the tools to identify problems and implement solutions has always been the right way to create a proactive and powerful team.

But it is when we are under the most pressure that we see the true benefits of an empowered workforce. 

If we look toward our Business and Science Parks, most of which remained at least partially open during lockdown, we can see exactly how individuals at site-level have been able to pivot, support and adapt spaces for occupiers.

With the freedom that a framework enabled them, MAPP teams in our Business and Science Parks were able to protect their clients’ interests, because they had the autonomy to make things happen.

Trust is critical. 

There will always be times where additional control is required. But bringing experts in and then telling them what to do is, quite simply, a waste of time. It is important to trust in good people with the right experience to do the job. 

That’s why, when it came to an increased number of occupiers returning to the Parks, it was the Building Managers who understood best how to help them overcome the ‘barrier of the unknown’.

They created bespoke guides for each building, took occupiers on Zoom tours so they could see the space before they returned, and filmed video walk-throughs.

They understood, better than anyone, what the concerns would be, and how to tackle them for each individual business. 

As a result, many people have been able to experience a fluid return to work and we can be confident in the measures we have taken. We trusted in our people, and they delivered for MAPP, and our occupiers.


It’s good to talk

When you’ve been used to sitting in an office with the same people Monday to Friday….

When you know exactly how they take their coffee in the morning, and their favourite biscuit for dunking…

Then, suddenly, everyone is gone. Working from home, on different kitchen tables in different towns or even cities.

How do you keep the collaboration and energy? But more than that, how do you improve it?

Tom Peasgood is Senior Exec Director & Head of Business and Science Parks at MAPP:

“We used to get together as a full team once every 3-4 weeks. We had been talking for a while about how we adapt our communications to make processes more effective. Then, because of Covid-19, it all happened for us.

Now we have weekly full team meetings and from the way we work internally to the relationships with our clients, we have made stronger and more meaningful connections. Without the disruption of the commute we can ‘meet’ with landlords and occupiers easily, schedules are more free, and we can hold meetings in Manchester, Leeds and London all on the same day.

We are more open to sharing best practice. Nobody manages in isolation. In fact, more so than ever before, there is a sense that we are one team.”


Whatever works for you

Business Parks were once seen as less attractive than vibrant city centres. But it is not just the impact of Covid-19 and people’s reluctance to squash onto a daily tube commute that is turning that perception on its head.

They are now seen as a place to work and play, where the diversity and choice of the city can be translated into a bespoke offer for businesses who see the benefits of an out of town location. 

Business and Science Parks now offer health and leisure events and facilities, business networking support, and unique office spaces to attract and retain the freshest talent. 

Tom Peasgood expects to see this trend continue;

“We have seen such energy and creativity in the management of Business Parks in particular over the past few years. The Science Parks have been operating in this way for a while, but business is catching up, and it is really impacting the way people are working.

As flexible and remote working becomes more of a norm, organisations will adapt to accommodate, with office spaces that are built for collaboration and creativity.

Employees will have the freedom to adjust their working week around health and fitness activities or social events hosted at the Parks, giving the working environment more appeal, and enabling people to be more productive when they are there”.

And it isn’t just the extra-curricular activities that will adapt, the same flexibility can be reflected in more institutional change.

While businesses are accustomed to paying a charge for conventional services; keeping the Park clean, safe, and making sure the grass gets cut; demands for differing service levels for businesses will create more choice, and a more bespoke model for charging occupiers. 

You can have two clients: an up-and-coming start-up and a billion-pound corporation. Their needs are different and therefore we should allow flexible customisations. 

All of this creates opportunities for businesses and their employees to work in spaces that work for them.


What does this mean for Business and Science Parks?

Whatever way you look at the past few months they have highlighted the importance of people who have the knowledge, experience and relationship management skills to adapt and support occupiers and businesses as they navigate change.

Robust and effective communication processes will continue to empower teams, wherever and however they are working.

As we look to the future, we can expect to see a resurgence of popularity for Business and Science Parks. Their locations, their flexibility, their bespoke service offerings, and their creative appeal.

We saw it coming.

Covid-19 has fast tracked the evolution of the office by 5-7 years, and many of our Parks are on this journey already, with 5-a-side football pitches, sports facilities and fitness classes.

Most importantly, though, it is our teams across the country who have proved that the future of Business and Science Parks is agile, dynamic and pioneering of a better way to live and work.