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Office Fit-out Evolving to Meet Demands of Gen Y

The Hungarian office market, like so much else in Hungary, is largely centered on – and dominated by – Budapest. The population of the capital appears to be on the rise, and demand for trendy office space is also going up as the real estate sector bounces back from the crisis. Yet, what trendy means is highly dependent on the sector and the average age of the staff working in the spaces, experts tell the Budapest Business Journal.

Although there are a few secondary cities in Hungary large enough to home larger-scale office buildings, the capital still rules the market. Shared service centers (SSCs) seem to favor university cities around the country, but other than that, Budapest prospers from the myriad of office buildings forming its skyline.  

“The Budapest office market is quite diverse; everything can be found from the smallest offices, to several thousand square meter large office buildings,” Borbála Csuhay, sales and asset management director of Property Market Real Estate Development Ltd., says.

Csuhay points out that the capital is home to a total of more than 3.3 million square meters of modern office space. Sarolta Csikós, regional leasing director for offices at TriGranit, tells the BBJ that, considering the whole Hungarian office market, the average rented office space is at around 700 sqm. She stresses that while smaller office spaces are regularly available only in category “B” or “C” offices, international companies tend to rent larger, higher grade spaces.

It is clear that acquiring BREEAM, LEED or WELL certification is a good idea in terms of making an office building attractive. However, what white-collar workers will expect from an office space depends highly on the sector they work in. 

Extreme Differences

“The interior demands of an SSC or a legal firm - the two extremes from a fit-out perspective - are still very different nowadays,” Csikós says, explaining that establishing a dominant trend in terms of office fit-out is all but impossible.  

“While SSC’s prefer open spaces, legal firms need much more separated interiors. Before the crisis, the ratio of open versus cellular space was around 80% open and 20% cellular. And although open spaces have become more popular lately, these kind of offices also combine closed and open spaces,” she adds.

Despite the differences of the sectors, however, there are some facilities that no office space can operate without. “Open space, manager rooms, collaboration rooms, kitchens, water blocks, etc. are now a necessary must,” Csuhay says. And Csikós also points out it is a given that “the office is at a convenient location, with easy access for public transport - that is important for most employees.”

It is nearly impossible to start any conversation in the modern labor market without seasoned professionals and senior managers mentioning how the younger generation is transforming the working life in many aspects. Youngsters even appear to be altering how developers must think about fitting out an office.  

“Due to the needs of the young generation, who have just started work, interior fit-out needs have changed a lot in the recent years,” Csikós notes. “Creative interior design, recreational functions, many more green areas have made offices much more sophisticated - and also more expensive,” Csikós comments. She adds that the efforts required to secure certifications, such as BREEAM, LEED or WELL, can also pump up construction costs.

Csikós also notes that “as for general refurbishment, or even services, the trend is still to have nice common areas, a wide range of recreational facilities, and creative interior design (these two are especially important for the Y-generation. Bicycle storage, electric car chargers and full accessibility are similarly important for tenants. Creative spaces are gaining a larger role - for example, comfortable couches are available for meetings, and for separate working smaller creative working corners are prepared.”

Green Still King

Environmental protection and sustainability are still buzzwords, as far as offices are concerned, and such a mentality also extends to fit out. “More and more companies consider environmental protection an important thing, therefore they’re using recycled furniture, or they’re choosing to separate the boxes/cells in the open offices with plants, instead of furniture,” Csuhay says.

Riding this environmental train of thought is not only a perk, however; it is becoming a requirement. “Actually, due to an EU regulation, buildings receiving occupation permits after the end of 2020 will be subject to much stricter technical regulations, and as an effect, buildings will need to reach zero emissions,” says Csikós. “But sustainability is not only more and more important for employees. International companies are often restricted to leasing office spaces that are certified green offices; the corporate sustainability responsibility agenda adopted by most international corporations simply obliges them this way,” she adds.

But what can make an office space truly trendy nowadays? “According to our experiences, colorful and comfy sofas, bean bags, and lounge/relaxation rooms are essential in a trendy office,” Csuhay says. “Many offices use design elements, such as art by Hungarian designers, painters, or sculptors as a tool for making a prettier environment,” she adds. Additionally, the emphasis on letting the steam out and enabling office staff to relax has also grown.  

“Recently, many companies have purchased accessories like darts, boxing bags, table football, pool tables, etc., which can reduce stress and help staff to relax,” Csuhay adds. She also notes that the need for privacy has also been recently addressed. “There is a dominant trend, the so-called phone room or phone booth, where the employees can have telephone conferences, or simple phone calls with a client or even private calls without disturbing the others.”

When fitting out an office space, the satisfaction of employees has moved to the center of attention partly because recent scientific studies have shown that the atmosphere can boost this very important variable as far as working sentiment is concerned.  

“Employee satisfaction is strongly dependent on the atmosphere of the workplace, which in turn contributes to the good mood of the employees and helps to increase loyalty and attract talents,” Csuhay adds. Hence, following Western European trends, Hungary has seen an increasing demand “for office buildings that can offer more than just basic and standard technical parameters, such as recreational facilities and services that make the everyday life easier for the employees.”

The evergreen cliché of creativity having no limits also applies to fit-out. Csikós mentions “a sauna just right beneath the CEO’s office” as the weirdest thing she has come across in an office fit-out, while Csuhay recalls “an ice cream wagon with a cafe section,” a “a snow-white tram” that can be used for relaxation or a meeting room, as well as a “huge blue slide coming down to the middle of the office from the upper floor relaxation area”. Who would not want to work extra hours in such offices?