A leading expert on the modern workplace has told Teesside’s business leaders and politicians that employers are creating a rapid revival of city centres.
Bertie van Wyk travels the world advising companies about emerging trends and business processes.
“It’s incredible how fast things are changing,” he said. “The single biggest thing we’re seeing now is a resurgence of the city centre.”
Businesses are moving there because employees want easy journeys to work and access to amenities. They also have a different requirement from their job. “The world of work is changing because it’s more important to be happy,” said Mr van Wyk.
He told an audience at Centre Square – Middlesbrough’s new showpiece office development – that workers’ preference for a city centre location increased the talent pool for employers but would have a detrimental effect on businesses based out of town: “We’re seeing a massive decline – potentially for the future – in business parks because transport and all the other amenities aren’t there. You can’t beat a good city location.”
Mr van Wyk is a workplace specialist with the Herman Miller Insight Group, part of the Herman Miller company – one of the world’s most successful designers of offices and office furniture.
“When I joined the world of work it was the ‘job for life’ thing. Now it is different,” he said. “People under the age of 30 have got a different idea about working. Now it is more important to be happy than it is to earn 20% more.
“The office of the future is a space that’s going to provide the ultimate employee experience and companies that do that will steal employees from everyone else.”
Mr van Wyk was invited to Middlesbrough by the Centre Square architect Seymour Architecture and the developer Ashall Projects.
Mark Ashall – the head of Ashall Projects – said the aim of the £22m Centre Square project was to create a desirable place to work, visit and relax.
“We believe employers who move here will find it easier to attract and retain staff – and the staff will thrive in this environment,” he said.
Richard Wilson, senior associate with chartered surveyors and property consultants Dodds Brown, said Centre Square was a game changer.
It provides the only locally available Grade A office space and that high quality – along with good transport links and shops, restaurants and bars within walking distance – is a major asset in the plan to regenerate the centre of Middlesbrough.
“There is real excitement within the business community at what’s been created here. There is a growing realisation about the ambition of the town and how this will become the business hub for the Tees Valley,” he said.