People often assume coworking spaces are for freelancers and startups – those famously free spirits who can work anywhere, as long as they have coffees, laptops and headphones. The truth is that these workers make up a relatively small portion of the flexible workforce.
Corporates are coming round to the benefits of a new, collaborative way of working. In 2018, WeWork reported that the number of members with more than 1000 staff had doubled within a year. In the US, big names with WeWork memberships include Starbucks, Microsoft, Facebook, and Bank of America. In our own team, we’ve noticed that the average number of desks sought per client has risen from 10 to 27 and we’re moving more and more clients who need 50+ desks.
We’re seeing providers respond to corporate demand – lots of them offer more privacy, more meeting rooms and the option to brand a space. Some offer the chance to influence how a space is designed and organised. This way, bigger companies get the office experience they’re used to, without the management or admin, and with the added benefits of collaboration and community. It can make financial sense for them, too – they pay a flat fee, rather than worrying about maintenance costs, furniture, equipment and tea bags for their employees.
expect to use more collaborative space over the next three years
In 2018, as part of our trend report (Y)OUR SPACE, we surveyed senior executives at 120 global companies to find out what the corporates really have in store for our industry. Here’s what they told us 44% say flexible space will make up a fifth of their office space in the next three years & 16% estimate that half of their workspace will be flexible within three years.
Their intentions are driven by lots of things, but their most cited reasons were ‘increased flexibility’, ‘a greater sense of community’ and ‘greater speed to becoming operational’. Three quarters said they thought productivity, wellbeing and happiness would increase with a shift to a flexible workspace, which is something we’ve seen first-hand. Several tech giants have taken space in coworking environments, and having their employees work side by side with startups and innovators is really motivating for them. People love to see others producing great work.
There are lots of scenarios in which a corporate might take a flexible workspace: they might want a whole new HQ, or they might just want it as an extra. A company with an HQ in Hampshire might want a coworking space in London so their employees can choose to work where’s convenient – or to work in town between meetings. Or, they might choose to take a flexible workspace as a base for a specific department, or to set up an innovation lab.
We’re seeing providers respond to corporate demand – lots of them offer more privacy, more meeting rooms and the option to brand a space.
Recently in London, Investec bank took 150 desks in a flexible space as an overflow office, Virgin Media Business based a campaign team in a WeWork, and Pinterest started using a flexible space as their main HQ (they needed a space that could accommodate rapid growth).
More surprisingly, hedge fund company Balyasny Europe took a flexible overflow space. They occupied a floor of a building in Mayfair and it no longer accommodated their staff, but they were tied in to it for several more years. There happened to be a serviced office in the same building, so they were able to seamlessly expand within the same address.
There are so many ways flexible workspaces can work hard for corporates, and we can’t wait to see where this trend goes next.