If you, like me, have a family or any other caring commitments, you’ll have known about the need for flexible working - better still flexible workspaces - long before the pandemic. Places you can plug in, concentrate and get things done, spaces you can collaborate in, or frankly just a place to go when you need to get out of the house to work. They have been gamechangers for businesses and will be the ace up the sleeve for the talent pool and attracting more diversity.
The likes of WeWork and Regus have become household names. While they don’t represent the whole flexible workspace or co-working market, they do help to explain the sector. Over the last five years the industry has exploded, and since the pandemic spaces have multiplied with superb brands coming forward like Orega, Clockwise and Huckletree. These spaces are located in towns and cities across the UK, on the high street and in business parks and office blocks. They are designed with flexibility in mind, supporting SMEs through to FTSE project teams.
Developers and landlords are now taking the sector seriously both as a way to diversify their portfolio and to mitigate risk. The trend for hybrid working is very much here to stay.
According to JLL’s Future of Work Survey 77% of corporate real estate (CRE) leaders believe offering remote or hybrid working will be crucial for attracting and retaining talent in the future.
The report shows that 43% of companies are planning to speed up investment in flexible space between now and 2025, with 51% saying they will lease flexible space through a third-party provider.
Designing flexible workspace
Flexible workspaces are still in their infancy and the sector is thriving despite being retrofitted into commercial spaces. However, the design needs do differ from standard leased office space. The space has to fit the developing work style, with breakout spaces and co-working style day pass areas, plus more amenities, such as bike stores, gyms and showers. Security is also key for sites with multiple client companies, so door entry systems for every office and meeting room are standard requirements. This all necessitates some serious thought early on in the design stage of development.
In doing so, we are setting a precedent from the start, an intention to attract diversity.
As mentioned, flexible workplaces allow companies to attract a wider talent pool. Outside of major cities, they also naturally enable businesses to attract female employees and those less able to move into areas like London, where the barrier to entry is higher due to the cost of living.
Developers are now not just expected to build homes but consider placemaking. An element of this is considering how and where people work, but rarely does it delve into supporting flexible working - it definitely should.
Part of the appeal of flexible workspaces is the transience they offer, appealing to people using the space for a day through to a commitment of several years. Some of our clients' spaces house 20 plus different businesses along with the same number of self-employed individuals.
The appeal of these spaces is also the eco-systems they create and support - with many operators proactively supporting businesses with access to space, activities and even ESG opportunities.
If you’re a business looking for an accountant, virtual assistant or even a masseuse why wouldn’t you use Sally who is in the same building?
Technology has made this possible, connecting one office in St Andrews with another in Lands End, but now we need the physical infrastructure to support it with the creation of more flexible workspaces. Through this, we support women in work and provide opportunities for businesses to flourish.
Author: Laurie Dennard
Laurie Dennard is the strategic marketing consultant for technologywithin - a prop tech solution for those in the commercial property sector; working with retail, offices and flexible workplace providers to provide WiFi, superfast internet and workspace management software.