The pandemic has fundamentally changed the role of the office but it’s also accelerated the rise in the variety of fit out and workplace options for employers looking to tempt their people back to a physical workplace.

What are the options for office space?

Around 10 years ago, the industry was generally geared towards Cat A and Cat B fit outs, where the most complex decision for a company was what procurement route to use: traditional, design and build, detail and build or framework agreements.

Now there are a plethora of decisions to be made around the design and positioning of the workplace. Does the organisation want to be able to move into a space at short-notice and have everything ready to go, or does it see the benefit of creating a bespoke workplace?

Is the organisation planning to be in the space for the medium to long term or does it envisage a more short-term approach? Maybe it’s growing at pace and doesn’t want the anchor of a fixed floorplate? Is there just one head office, or is the business considering leasing smaller hub offices to reduce the need for people to commute but maintain collaboration? How will home-working fit into the post-pandemic working week and what impact will this have on the physical space an organisation needs?

Meeting room in post pandemic office
Open plan cat b fit out

One of the main concerns is how to rebuild the social capital lost through a long period of home-working. In our OnePulse poll of 1,000 employees, 90 percent missed the social contact in the workplace with 47 percent missing the ability to collaborate easily. Organisations are realising that to bring people back to an office, they need to create a more bespoke workplace experience which is unique to their organisation and reflects both their culture and what their people need from the space. Many want to establish what’s being known as the FOMO workplace – somewhere that people want to come back to because they fear missing out otherwise.

But there’s genuine confusion about the different options available for forward-thinking organisations exploring the options for a post-pandemic workplace which helps to boost social capital. This guide talks through the main fit out choices, what they mean and who they’ll best suit.

What are the different workplace and fit out choices?

  • Shell and core
  • Category A fit out
  • Category A+ fit out
  • Category B fit out
  • Tenant-ready plug and play fit out
  • Managed service
  • Flex space / coworking
  • Hub and spoke model
  • Working from home
Employees discussing fit out choices

What is shell and core?

Shell and core is the most basic option. It means that the building is completed on the outside and in any common areas shared between tenants such as lifts, toilets and building reception. But the office space itself is a bare shell with concrete floors and walls, but no lighting or facilities.

Shell and core includes:

  • Structure
  • Cladding
  • Main plant
  • External works
  • Completed common areas

Who’s it for? Typically, shell and core is the state in
which a developer will hand a multi-tenanted building over to its owner – the landlord. It is not a common option for occupiers.

Shell and core

What is Cat A fit out?

While there’s no standard industry specification, Cat A fit outs are usually little more than a blank canvas. Finished with a suspended ceiling, lighting, heating, and raised flooring, the landlord leaves it up to the tenant to install the functional design and finishes that suit their organisation’s individual activities and culture through the form of a Cat B fit out.

A Cat A fit out usually includes:

  • Raised floors and suspended ceilings with a basic finish
  • Basic mechanical and electrical services
  • Fire detection services and smoke alarms
  • Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC)
  • Basic internal finishes

Who’s it for? Landlords, property developers or investors who want to create a blank canvas for potential occupiers. Some companies planning to occupy the entire building may instruct a Cat A fit out from a contractor before using an interior design firm to complete a Cat B fit out.

Cat a fit out

What is Cat A+ fit out?

A relatively new option in the past decade, Cat A+ bridges the gap between Cat A and Cat B fit outs. They take the basic Cat A fit out and add some design features which make it ready for immediate occupation but without the personalised approach for an individual company.

Cat A+ fit outs typically include everything in a Cat A fit out plus:

  • Fitted kitchens
  • Partitioning including meeting rooms, offices and breakout spaces
  • Re-routing air conditioning and power points
  • IT installation and infrastructure

Who’s it for? Landlords looking to reduce building voids and secure tenants more quickly find that a Cat A plus fit out attracts a wider range of prospective tenants, particularly start-ups and smaller businesses which couldn’t afford a Cat B fit out. It also helps landlords compete with coworking companies.

Cat A+ fit out

What is Cat B fit out?

Cat b fit out

Like Cat A+, Cat B fit outs provide a space that an organisation can simply move into and start working. But unlike Cat A+, the fit out is bespoke to your organisation and people and tailored to your brand’s personality. A Cat B fit out starts by understanding how people currently use their workspace and how the new space can support the organisation. This isn’t just about choosing desks and furniture, but also about ensuring that your office is somewhere that your employees would love to work; all while helping you attract and retain your industry’s best talent. The occupier is usually heavily involved in decision-making in a Cat B fit out.

A Cat B fit out includes everything in a Cat A fit out plus:

  • Fully-fitted kitchens and non-communal office amenities
  • Workstations and furniture
  • Partitioning; including meeting rooms, offices and breakout spaces
  • Re-routing air conditioning and power points
  • IT installation and infrastructure
  • Design and brand detailing

Who’s it for? Occupiers of all sizes choose a Cat B fit out as it’s an excellent way to allow the workplace to reflect an organisation’s personality. But there can be vastly different standards of a Cat B fit out, with some landlords providing Cat B spaces as simply room partitions, tea points and carpet but with no brand personalisation.

What is tenant-ready plug and play fit out?

The tenant-ready plug and play fit out enables an organisation to turn up and start working straight away, much like individuals do in a coworking space. The fit out will be quite vanilla but space will be left for an organisation to stamp its own personality through, for example, painting a wall a brand colour or hanging a neon sign or piece of corporate art. In our OnePulse poll, 63 percent of people preferred collaborating in an informal area such as flexible break-out space or soft seating, while just 22 percent preferred a formal meeting room, demonstrating the types of space required in fit outs.

Who’s it for? Following the boom in the coworking market, traditional landlords are looking for new ways to attract tenants. The tenant-ready plug and play provides businesses of all sizes a quick route to a high-quality workplace. For occupiers looking for project or over-fill space or for growing companies, this option provides a swift no-hassle solution.

Tenant ready office fit out

What is managed service offer?

Numerous managed service operators have sprung up in recent years offering both coworking spaces and flexible workspaces. Under this option, serviced office companies lease a space from a landlord and deliver Cat B fit outs for specific occupiers for a period of time. In addition they’ll deliver all services from cleaning and security to internal landscaping and post.

Who’s it for? Occupiers who are looking for a bespoke space for the medium-term with no capital upfront payment, no due diligence and no landlord liaison.

Manged service office

What is coworking / flex space

Serviced office companies are well known for their flex space and coworking model, which involve a space flooded with power and data that is easily configurable and flexible. Through flex space, they deliver private office space for a set period for organisations ready for them to move straight into. Coworking spaces offer desks for individual workers, allowing them to collaborate with co-workers or people in other organisations.

Who’s it for? Start-ups, small, rapidly-growing or acquisitive companies and larger businesses looking for overflow or project space.

Coworking space
Flex space office

What is the hub and spoke model?

The pandemic has accelerated the distributed workforce trend which was already gaining ground. The hub and spoke model sees an organisation complement a head office (the hub) with smaller regional offices (spokes) which could be owned, leased or in serviced office or coworking space. This helps to reduce commuting, support work-life balance and improve collaboration.

Who’s it for? Organisations of all sizes who are looking to support employees achieve a better work-life balance while also maintaining engagement, collaboration and productivity.

Full working from home

While many organisations have been forced to adopt work from home models for much of the past 10 months, few are planning to continue with this as a long-term model. The need for employees to collaborate, communicate, socialise and find a quiet space to work means that the vast majority are planning to return to a physical workplace for the long term.

Who’s it for? Just 12% of people in our December 2020 survey wanted to work from home permanently.

Man working from home


Whatever option an organisation chooses, the key to success is to start with the employee. Every organisation has its own unique DNA and will require different things from their workplace. There is no one-size-fits-all option. The important thing is that the employee is put at the heart of every decision.

In our December 2020 poll, people saw the post-pandemic workplace as a space to get team work done (52%), to meet up and socialise with colleagues (51%) and to create and share ideas with their team (43%). But, at the same time, 20% wanted to use it to focus on individual work, demonstrating that every person and every organisation is different.

By better understanding what individuals need, organisations can not only boost their social capital but also retain their talent and attract new people. And they can start to plan their post-pandemic workplace offer and go to the market with a strong understanding of their requirements.