The landscape of UK office space has undergone a dramatic shift in recent years, as hybrid work models become the norm, so a demand for more dynamic and flexible workspaces has arisen, coupled with an unprecedented demand for green credentials. As an office manager or business owner, navigating this terrain can be daunting and making sure you provide ample office space for employees to operate effectively while also keeping costs low is a delicate balancing act, particularly while demand still far outstrips supply.
The following report will help to shed light on costs, trends, and popular locations for office space across the UK, helping those on the hunt for office space find what they are looking for.
How much does UK office space cost?
Costs: prepare for big variations
The rent you pay for UK office space will be determined by several factors:
Location: When it comes to costs, location is everything and unsurprisingly, London reigns supreme. City centre rents reach a staggering £140 per sq ft, while fringe areas offer respite at £35 per sq ft. In contrast, other larger cities such as Manchester boast a prime rate of £43.50 per sq ft, with Birmingham following at £42.50 per sq ft. Cities like Brighton and Bristol see prime rents exceeding £40 per sq ft, proving their growing allure.
Grade: Office spaces receive grades like report cards, with A being top of the class. Grade A offices are innovative hubs boasting the latest tech, green credentials, and impressive amenities, like rooftop gardens and barista bars. Grade B, the solid B student, offers functional space and decent amenities, perfect for established businesses. Finally, Grade C, the C of comfort, delivers basic setups at budget-friendly prices, ideal for those just starting out. The better the grade, the more you’ll pay.
Demand: Popular areas like Birmingham and Manchester experience tight supply and strong demand, leading to rental growth. The imbalance between supply and demand means landlords can hike up rental prices. Considering alternative locations, if you are on a tight budget and flexibility is possible, can help you find the right office space while keeping costs down.
Inner City Office Rent Cost
Outer/Fringe Office Rent Cost
£29 - £41
£20 - £28
£34.50 - £40.50
£26 - £34
£37.50 - £42.50
£17.50 - £22
£42.50 - £62.50
£30 - £42
£30 - 37
£20 - 29
£20 - £27
£15 - £22
£70 - £140
£35 - £70
£32 - £40
£25 - £32
£24 - £32
£14 - £22
£42.50 - £62.50
£30 - £42
£29 - £40
£24 - £39.50
*figures accurate at the time of posting, prices are subject to fluctuation.
Beyond costs: emerging trends
Sustainability: Green credentials are no longer a bonus, but an expectation. LEED-certified buildings and energy-efficient amenities are becoming major considerations.
Flexibility: Hybrid work models have reshaped space needs. Coworking spaces and serviced offices are gaining traction, offering scalability and cost-effectiveness.
Technology: Smart buildings and integrated tech solutions are enhancing employee experience and boosting productivity.
UK office space cost insights: a city-by-city deep dive
London: where prime equals premium
The allure of London's "best-in-class" offices remains undimmed in 2024. Sustainability meets cutting-edge amenities in sleek new towers emerging across the iconic city skyline, from the Square Mile to beyond. Expect prime rents to climb further, driven by limited premium space and insatiable demand. Remember, London's diverse boroughs offer a cost spectrum of £35 to £140 per sq ft – so savvy company owners will choose wisely to navigate the balance between cost and location that works for their business.
Manchester: a thriving hub, with a competitive edge
As one of the UK's fastest-growing cities, Manchester boasts a vibrant mix of creative industries, scientific innovation, and established sectors like finance and legal. 2023 saw record take-up, with high-quality spaces leading the charge. Top rent is poised to hit £43.50 per sq ft, solidifying Manchester's appeal for investors and major players like Adidas and Siemens. However, more budget-friendly spaces are also popular here and the appeal of a thriving city and reasonable rents will continue to be a major draw for business owners across many sectors.
Looking for office space in Manchester? Explore popular areas like Spinningfields, Media City, and the trendy Northern Quarter for your perfect Manchester base.
Birmingham: an emerging powerhouse, and talent magnet
Beyond its trade and finance roots, Birmingham is now a start-up haven, boasting the UK's second-largest economy and a diverse talent pool thanks to its huge student population. Prime rents here soared above £40 per sq ft, a testament to the city's growing allure. Grade A space dominates, with developments like 10 Brindley Place setting the new standard. National Express, Deloitte, and Cadbury are just a few of the established names calling Birmingham the business home. With massive construction projects expected to be completed in 2025, Birmingham will continue to attract some major business players.
Looking for office space in Birmingham? Consider vibrant Digbeth or the central core for your new business venture.
Beyond the big three
Bristol: a tech hub with a vibrant atmosphere
Boasting the third-highest UK prime rent at £42.50, Bristol isn't just for tech enthusiasts and creatives anymore. While city centre take-up dipped last year, the out-of-town market continues to thrive. Diverse industries like grain import and aerospace join media and IT in this lively southwest city. The 1.6% Grade A availability guarantees rent growth in 2024, with exciting schemes like The Fairfax and One Temple Way adding 760,000 sq ft to the pipeline. The Ministry of Defence, Airbus, and Rolls Royce are among Bristol's prestigious tenants helping to showcase its growing appeal.
Looking for office space in Bristol? Temple Meads, Broadmead, and Clifton remain popular, but keep an eye on Aztec West's rise.
Newcastle: sustainability champion with premium appeal
Medical sciences and sustainability shine in Newcastle, a vibrant city attracting investment and skilled talent. Take-up dipped slightly in 2023, but companies are committing to new space despite potential recession. Premium spaces are hot property, with limited Grade A availability (1.4%) pushing prime rents to £32 per sq ft – a 14.3% jump in a year. Sage, Greggs, Virgin Money, and Accenture use Newcastle as a base for operations.
Looking for office space in Newcastle? Quayside, Grey Street, and the burgeoning Cobalt district offer prime locations for your sustainable venture.
Leeds: a growing Northern powerhouse that provides god value
Forget industrial stereotypes, Leeds pulsates with modern energy. This Yorkshire powerhouse draws talent and businesses seeking affordability and growth. 2023 was abuzz with activity with 994,618 sq ft snapped off the market, much of it dominated by professional services, finance, and government sectors. Expect prime rents to climb from £37 to £43.50 by 2027, solidifying Leeds' appeal. Asda, Capita, Jet2, and Sky call operate from the city and more big names can be expected to follow suit.
Looking for office space in Leeds? Explore prime areas like Leeds Central, Wellington Place, and Beeston for your thriving northern base.
Liverpool: historic charm meets cost-effective buzz
Liverpool's architectural gems house diverse businesses, from education and pharma to finance and law. It's a haven for cost-conscious companies, with rents averaging £20 per sq ft and prime rents at £25.50. TMT and government sectors led the charge in 2023, with 486,193 sq ft absorbed. While larger spaces see dipping demand, exciting new schemes like The Docks and Knowledge Quarter are on the horizon. Jacobs Crackers, Unilever, and The Very Group thrive in Liverpool's unique charm.
Looking for office space in Liverpool? Discover historic gems like St Paul's and The Docks for your cost-effective Liverpool hub.
Cambridge: a science haven with soaring potential
One of the world's top universities makes Cambridge a science and technology magnet. However, the talent pool isn't all the buzz; limited office space, especially those with lab facilities, drives development and means landlords and landowners can demand the big bucks. Land values are skyrocketing, with a £140m BioMed Realty deal for just 15 acres highlighting the extreme competition and staggering prices to go with it. Expect the 5.7 million sq ft development pipeline and the new train station to fuel future growth. Prime rent could hit £70 in 2024, with lab spaces following suit.
Looking for office space in Cambridge? Explore the City Centre, Cambourne, and the iconic Cambridge Science Park for your high-tech hub.
Oxford: an attractive university town breeding a bio-tech boom
Oxford is well known for its cutting-edge medical research, tech innovation, and university talent, attracting start-ups eager to tap into its intellectual capital. Coworking and flexible spaces see high demand, while a robust development pipeline promises exciting growth. Biosciences and pharmaceuticals reign supreme, with four unicorn companies making Oxford their home. Despite limited prime stock, prime rents hover around £65 per sq ft, driven by strong life science activity. Oxford Nanopore Technologies, Ceres Power Holdings, and Adaptimmune are just a few of the biotech giants thriving here.
Looking for office space in Oxford? Explore Oxford Science Park and Oxford Business Park for your bio-tech breakthrough.
Reading: London gateway with diverse appeal
With fast connections to London and a highly educated workforce, Reading boasts one of the UK's most productive economies. Tenants seeking both cost-effective options and premium spaces will find their perfect match here, with rents ranging from more budget-friendly options to above £40 for amenity-rich, ESG-focused spaces. Reading is a champion for research in health, business, and climate change, and it is a tech and financial services hub. Microsoft, Vodafone, Oracle, and Prudential are among its prestigious tenants.
Looking for office space in Reading? The Town Centre, Green Park, and Thames Valley Park offer a diverse range of options for your Reading venture.
Brighton: where creativity meets buzzing coastline
This vibrant south coast city buzzes with digital, science, and environmental businesses drawn to its stunning coastal location and inspiring atmosphere. The two big universities attract diverse talent, while limited Grade A space (only 10,000 sq ft!) fuels demand. Expect rents to hit £42 in 2024, making developments like Middle Street and Portland hot properties. American Express, Higgidy Pies, and Brand Watch call Brighton home.
Looking for office space in Brighton? Explore the City Centre, North Laine, and South Laine for your creative space.
Area's expertise: your advantage
At Area, we understand the complexities of the UK market and can guide you towards the perfect space that optimises your budget, fosters employee wellbeing, and aligns with your long-term vision. Once you have settled on your perfect office, our expert team can help you make the most of your space through our commercial fit out and design services.
With this guide and Area by your side, finding the ideal UK office space becomes a smooth journey, paving the way for success and growth.
Get in touch with our team today to see how we can help.