Despite these difficulties, at Clarence Professional Offices we saw the complete opposite and now have plans for significant growth over the next two years, based on the resilience of our business model and strong prospects in the legal and co-working sectors.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the purpose of office-based work. Could co-working spaces be the future?"
There has been a lot of debate surrounding the future of the CBD and the balance between working from home and office time. We see some clear trends in our business: there is a real need for direct interaction between co-workers, solicitors and their clients. And even between the different legal practices within Clarence’s network.
Of course, remote communications play an important role and can be efficient but legal matters are often stressful and it is often difficult to establish trust and effective communication between a client and their lawyer if the relationship is completely remote. This, coupled with the fact that legal services were considered an essential service, has resulted in our offices remaining busy throughout COVID and during the various lockdowns.
Now Clarence is experiencing a resurgence in demand from our members eager for more networking opportunities. I regularly hear people say they miss seeing people and spending real time with colleagues. This has been backed up by record attendances at our recent community and networking events.
At the same time, the business is continuing to enjoy strong occupancy levels in our three locations (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane). Given this, we are actively exploring doubling our footprint in Melbourne, followed quickly with plans to expand in Brisbane and Sydney.
Our Melbourne location has been at over 90 per cent occupancy for the last 12 months, demonstrating both the resilience of demand from the legal sector as well as increased interest in flexible office rentals. Many small businesses that need a CBD presence are seriously re-considering the traditional commercial lease model, where a tenant signs a 3-to-5-year lease, pays for the fit-out and then pays the landlord a “make good” payment at the end of the lease.
There is a clear trend that many companies will settle on a hybrid, three or four day week working from the office and home. Many business owners believe they can roster their teams and actively explore a more flexible space.
The last two years have been a real test of our business model. However, the loyalty of our members, the strength of our brand, and our staff, have allowed us to establish a strong base for future growth.