Rules hold back development of co-working space in Dubai

Regulations need to be more flexible to encourage the development of co-working space.

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Dubai’s government and free zone authorities may need to change some of their current rules if they are to embrace technological trends shaping office development, according to JLL.

Presenting its Workspace, Reworked report in Dubai, the firm said that technological changes will dramatically reshape the office network over the next 15 years, with firms employing fewer “core workers”, relying instead on a greater numbers of “contingent” or “autonomous” workers.

The report stated that there is a continued decline in demand for space from corporate occupiers, pointing out that the number of financial sector office workers in New York dropped by a third to 100,000 in the period between 2000-13.

Meanwhile, demand for co-working space is surging. The firm’s UK head of research, Jon Neale, said that 15 per cent of new office space let in London last year went to providers of co-working space.

However, JLL Mena head of research, Craig Plumb, said that “we still face a fairly conservative and restrictive regulatory environment” when it comes to office space in Dubai, with each expat worker in a company requiring a visa, and each employer having to take on 8 to 9 square metres of office per visa both in free and non-free zones.

“To some extent, it limits your ability to come up with co-working or flexible floor space,” Mr Plumb said.

“But that will change. We all know that the government in this part of the world is very responsive to changing regulations to allow industries to develop. We think that as part of the Smart Cities programme, the government will recognise that and start to relax some of the regulations.”

Meg Forbes, business leader for real estate services for MasterCard in the Middle East and Africa, said that as an occupier, its biggest bone of contention had not been finding “smart” office space in Dubai, but in finding any suitable space for its needs.

MasterCard currently works over four floors in three separate buildings, but is having a new regional headquarters built for it by Tecom Group.

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