April 23, 2021 by Andrea Rajic
Flexible workspaces, just like remote work, were on the rise much before the coronavirus pandemic. Still, the pandemic served as an accelerator for big changes in the business world—the adoption of flexible work and changes in the purpose of physical spaces made flex spaces soar. The real estate sector is facing a rise in the availability of flexible offices, and companies seem to be taking them up.
That's why we made this comprehensive guide to flexible workspaces and how they work for companies.
Flexible workspaces are fully equipped and serviced offices that employees and companies can work from and enjoy all the amenities for a productive workday.
Flexible workspaces are also called flex spaces, short-term offices, flexispaces, and hybrid workspaces. Flex spaces are offered to professionals and enterprises with flexible lease terms. These terms span from daily pay-as-you-go passes to month or year-long memberships.
Back in 1995, the first coworking space was founded. Berlin, Germany is considered to be the place of birth of flexible workspaces, as 17 computer engineers gathered and created a unique “hackerspace” where they could work, exchange knowledge and ideas, and collaborate on different projects.
That’s something that hasn’t changed to this day - people still use flex spaces as an opportunity to meet folks from other industries and learn something new.
It wasn’t until a few years later that “coworking” got its name, although it was used more to designate the way people worked, rather than the space where they did it. However, later on, the name simply stuck with flexible workspaces as well.
The first modern coworking space, in the form we know today, was open in 2002 in Vienna. Another one popped up in San Francisco in 2005, and then 2006. The following year, searching for “coworking” was already a thing on Google, and in 2009, a group of authors published a book, predicting that coworking spaces will make the office obsolete.
The rest is history! We do still have offices, but truth be told, flex spaces are becoming more and more popular as each day goes by.
When we think about the traditional office space, we know what it looks like: most likely an open plan and less often cubicles. However, when we mention flex spaces, many different things come to mind.
Let's go over some of the most common types of flexible work environments:
In most scenarios, coworking spaces offer large, shared workspaces with open office designs where people from different companies can come and work in. Coworking spaces offer standard office amenities, like wi-fi, printers, coffee and tea, and social areas and conference rooms for calls. Professionals often use these spaces on demand, which means they book and pay them as they go.
Some flex spaces and coworking locations work on the basis of hot desking, which means there are no designated desks or reservations. Instead, when you drop by, you choose whichever desk is available (a hot desk) and use that as your designated workplace for the day.
Desk or office hoteling is an operational principle of some flexible offices where you book a certain desk to use when you come to work. It is the opposite of hot-desking and is not dependent on the number of occupied desks available.
Companies sometimes use this principle when their employees are on a business trip - they book a place for them to work from in a hotel or a coworking space in another city or country.
In the past year, demand has been growing for private offices in flex spaces. As many companies are following hybrid work trends and shifting to this work model, they want to have both shared spaces and dedicated offices.
Depending on your flexible workspace provider, your company can get a dedicated flex space that combines open office space, private offices, shared areas, phone booths, and meeting rooms.
Although shared offices sound similar to coworking, there’s a slight difference. Say your company has a traditional office lease, but the office space you’re using is too big for you.
You may rent the unused space to another business, and in that case, your office would be called a shared office.
Finally, flexible spaces offer on-demand meeting and conference rooms. Whether you're a startup or a large corporation, chances are you will need spaces to meet with colleagues or clients. You will save money on long-term leases and still be professional when you need to.
A flexible work space brings many benefits over a traditional office space. Here are a few of them.
Overall occupancy costs are much lower, and not just because of rent. When companies get long-term leases, they usually spend a lot on fitting the building with their specific needs, layouts, and floor plans. All these requests increase the overall cost for the occupier.
Also, when using a flex space, you don’t have to pay for utilities and cleaning expenses. When you calculate all your potential costs, it turns out you can save up to 60% on real estate, and many large companies are already making this switch.
The cost of flexible office spaces can scale up and down. Depending on your needs, your costs can be as flexible as the spaces themselves. On the other hand, the space itself is scalable as well. If your team suddenly grows, you can just rent a few more desks, instead of looking for a new office in a hurry.
This is particularly handy for companies that have satellite offices and a distributed workforce, as it makes scaling real estate up and down simple, easy, and affordable.
Even if you don’t hire globally, you can save your employees precious time by removing commuting from their plates. You can have designated locations for big teams and flexible ones for smaller groups or individuals.
And if you decide to hire from the global talent pool, you can disperse the locations in residential areas in countries where your employees live. They can go to work without commuting and work outside of their homes if they don’t have conditions for home offices. At the same time, you enjoy flexible lower prices and your employees’ productivity and engagement at work.
These are one of the major perks of flexible workspaces. You no longer need to sign 10 or 15-year leases and bear the consequences when the market changes or, well... a pandemic happens. The combination of adaptability and cost scalability is what makes flex spaces a better fit for modern companies than commercial real estate.
Tired and overworked employees can’t be as productive as people who are happy at work. Burnout is a negative consequence that many employees suffer, and long commuting hours can be one reason for it.
By providing your team with a chance to work remotely from a well-equipped office, you can help them feel happier and more appreciated at work since you show them that their needs are taken into consideration.
That way, you can help your employees avoid burnout and keep their productivity level, which is a win-win situation.
Collaborative and focused work need different areas and furnishings to meet their goals. Employees need to have various daily needs met to make sure they do the work in the most productive way.
The open floor plans and different areas enable a good daily flow. This means employees can move between tasks seamlessly and get more done. Post-pandemic, workers can come in and out of these spaces as they wish, making them a great addition to remote work policies.
The workspace design of flex spaces emphasizes wellbeing. Factors like ergonomics play a key role in designing and furnishing the spaces. Amenities are provided at a standard office level, and companies can usually request additional features they need.
By allowing your employees to work in flexible workspaces, you also open a whole new door for them. They’ll be able to meet new people almost every day - people from different industries, or colleagues from the same field. That way, you encourage collaboration and exchange of ideas, which can result in amazing things.
Nothing’s perfect, so it’s only natural that flex workspaces come with their share of challenges.
If your team uses a lot of huge equipment for their jobs, it may be too difficult to integrate it into a coworking space. It may be possible to make some adjustments, but sometimes it’s challenging to find a workspace that would be able to accommodate, for example, two screens per desk.
If you’re only renting desks for your employees, it may be difficult to find a suitable, private place to make a phone call. Shared desks are also inadequate for video conferencing, so it’d be necessary to rent a private office for such purposes.
Sometimes, your employees will want to keep their stuff at work. It may be impossible if the flexible workspace you’re renting doesn’t offer storage space along with desks. You’re even more likely to face this challenge if your team is hot-desking.
The work environment plays an important role in the office life of many people. If they can’t keep a family photo or their favorite quotes on a sticker on their desk, it may affect their motivation and happiness at work. Some types of flexible workspaces don’t offer much room for personalization.
Finally, traditional office spaces do offer more control over your space. If you’re renting an office or a desk in a flexible workspace, you need to adjust to their rules and conditions.
A few years back, a survey showed that 58% of employees who participated said that flexible working improved their job satisfaction. That’s quite an impressive percentage, but it doesn’t surprise us, especially considering that many people today have no desire to go back to the office.
We already wrote about the fact that many employees even say they’d rather quit and look for a new job than work from an office again. However, flexible workspaces can be a nice reconciliation of both worlds - the employees can still enjoy more flexibility and freedom, while employers can have their teams in one place, in a productive and well-equipped working environment.
What’s important is that flexible workspaces provide a solution for companies to nurture the effects of their teams working from home - their increased productivity, motivation, work-life balance, and more. All of it contributes in a great measure to employees becoming more engaged in the workplace, which is the ultimate metric you’d want to track when it comes to employee happiness in your company.
Enterprise clients increasingly use flexible workspaces to cut down costs, enable flexibility, and increase productivity. At the same time, they get reliable partners on their hybrid work journey that makes all this possible without a long-term commitment.
Whether you're looking for a few conference rooms available on-demand or dedicated workspaces for your teams only, it's possible to achieve all of it without leasing commercial real estate.
A shift is happening in the business world, and companies need to focus on company culture and community. Employees make decisions based on whether the company values align with their own, and employers need to note that. Enabling flexible work is one of the perks workers want the most. By adopting it, companies show commitment to employees and their well-being.
If you're an HR or People leader looking to transition to hybrid workspaces, consider using Gable.
We offer workspaces in residential areas and city centers, as well as designated, custom locations for your teams only. We partner with boutique hotels, lofts, coworking spaces, and even residential homes to provide your employees with the best hybrid work experience. Reach out to us and find out more.