Is it just us or is everyone talking about flexible workspace? According to our research and the movement we’re seeing every day, demand is definitely on the rise and set to accelerate over the next three years. We’ve had a good think about why that might be.
Compared to the 25-year leases of the 1980s, today’s traditional, seven-year London leases are short. But for a lot of businesses, seven years is still a huge commitment. Serviced and coworking spaces tend to come with terms from one month to three years. On top of that, disruptive, modern businesses are finding they need to respond very quickly to the world around them, and for lots of our clients, this means supplementing with freelancers. This in turn means changing daily headcounts, so we need more HQs that are flexible in terms of space and lease.
There’s no need to hold on to expensive space you’re not using just in case you need it one day, and you never have to pay a penalty if you need to give space back. This is much more efficient for scaling up and down at short notice, which is what we find modern businesses need to do. We’ve helped network monitoring company Thousand Eyes move their London office three times in the last four years. They increased the size of their space with each move, which wouldn’t have been possible if they’d gone for a traditional office in the first place.
In a traditional office, you might meet a colleague or two at the microwave, but coworking spaces bring people together on a whole new scale. You meet people working for all kinds of organisations in spaces that are designed to support a sense of collaboration and community. Some of the spaces we look after include big shared communal kitchens, breakout areas, casual meeting spaces, quiet spaces, gyms, fitness studios, lounges, conferences theatres, event spaces and more. Who knows who you might collaborate with next?
A coworking operator will sink or swim depending on the service they offer you – they’re not hooking you in for years, so they need to work hard to keep you. They need to provide you with spaces that promote happiness, satisfaction and productivity. And they actually need to care about worker wellbeing, which might mean providing concierge services, events programmes, yoga classes and gyms, as well as really solid basics, like good old reliable maintenance. You and your staff are important (as you should be).
Flexible spaces are in their infancy and operators are doing everything they can to make them work for you; they have no restrictions and tend to understand the importance of looking after people. We’re seeing more examples of shops, cafes and hotels moving in on the ground floors of these buildings for workers on the move. It’s all very exciting – unlike 25-year leases which are… the opposite.