Flexible workspaces: What they are and why you need them
There's a reason everyone from startups to enterprise companies are investing in flexible workspaces.
Thanks to phones, laptops, ubiquitous Wi-Fi and, now, a global pandemic that has forced a large portion of the workforce into remote work, there’s no question: Work is more mobile than ever before — and our workspaces are more fluid.
That’s why flexible workspace designs — what we’ve defined as “fully serviced offices with dedicated workspaces, amenities and furnishings available to companies and professionals via flexible lease terms” — have swiftly moved from a convenient office solution for startups and freelancers to a strategic decision among enterprise companies and landlords.
Below, we’ll take a close look at flexible workspaces, their benefits and why workers are asking for them en masse.
A recent Harvard survey found that 96% of professionals say they need flexibility, but only 47% have access to it.
In this survey, flexibility was largely defined as the ability to structure the workday around their lives. But a big part was also empowering employees to decide where and how they work — both at and outside the office.
Flexible workspaces are designed to give employees just this, offering an assortment of working environments — sometimes across several locations — that offer professionals the ability to choose where and how they work.
And it’s just these environments that companies are investing in — and employees are demanding.
Understandably, the perks of flexible workspaces are far reaching and well worth adopting.
Here are just a few of the key benefits flexible workspaces provide:
An improved employee experience & increased productivity: Flexible workspaces tend to lead to more productivity, both for the latitude they provide workers, and for the quality of the spaces themselves.
In a recent survey of 1,000+ office workers, 77% told us they rely on their workplace environment to encourage their productivity. 64% said they are more productive when they can work in different settings around the office — and 72% said they appreciate being able to pick up and relocate to a quieter space to work if their typical workstation area becomes too loud or distracting. And, thanks to on-site cafés, employees don’t even have to leave to get coffee or snacks, adding efficiency to already-packed days.
Flexible lease terms: Where traditional office spaces can carry lease periods of 10-15 years, flexible spaces give businesses greater agility, and greater control. In many cases, lease terms can be negotiated to last anywhere between a few months and five years. Moreover, companies are able to pay for space for the headcount they have in the present and expand their spaces as they grow instead of paying for excess space to accommodate anticipated growth.
Reduced occupancy costs: When a company leases a traditional workspace, they are responsible for tailoring that space to meet the needs of their company, covering everything from furniture and light fixtures to networking infrastructure and floor coverings. In most flex space arrangements, these details are already taken care of, allowing the leasing company to avoid spending significant resources up front.
The best tools, technology & amenities: Flexible workspaces often provide the very best in tools and technology that help people get their work done. This includes everything from ergonomic furniture, the use of natural light and mitigating noise in the workplace to fast and reliable wi-fi, LCD displays equipped with video conferencing tech and screen sharing capabilities and USB charging and power outlets everywhere. This is a tremendous benefits for companies, which are shielded from investing in a depreciating asset: technology.
When employees have the right, quality tools at their disposal, they tend to be more productive. It’s really that simple.
What are the common features of flexible workspaces?
The best flexible workspaces make great use of square footage, provide a variety of work areas and offer thoughtfully designed workspaces and meeting rooms with attractive amenities and services.
Here are some of the common features of flexible workspaces:
Well-equipped collaborative spaces: Think on-demand meeting and conference rooms with video-equipped LED screens, wireless screen-sharing technology and interactive whiteboards. These spaces should be accessible and reservable via an easy-to-use online reservation system.
Cafés for people who work best when surrounded by chatter: These spaces often provide a dedicated social space where you can network, refuel with beverages and snacks or carve out space in the corner to work with a little background noise. At Hana, our café spaces feature catered spreads, daily gourmet treats and bites and refreshments.
Work pods for those who need quiet to focus: Privacy in flexible workspaces can come in different shapes and sizes that range from soundproof phone booths, fully private office suites and working pods perfect for heads-down work or private phone calls.
A variety of desking options to suit all needs: Many coworking and flex space providers offer “hot desks,” which are reservable shared desk spaces.
Alternatively, some coworking and flex space providers offer dedicated desk space where a member can effectively lease a private desk. These spaces provide professionals a level of consistency — and the ability to leave personal items at their leased desk (like a computer monitor or notebook).
Coworking space for flexibility: At its most basic level, coworking spaces offer a communal working area where people who belong to different companies can congregate to work.
Coworking spaces often offer the same amenities you would find in a traditional office — Wi-Fi, printers, conference rooms and desks — and all of the perks of flexible spaces like social areas, beverages and snacks.
Private offices for maximum privacy: Flex space providers are increasingly offering fully furnished private office suites. These give companies the option to carve out dedicated space within a flexible work environment that includes dedicated offices and meeting rooms while still enjoying all the amenities of shared workspaces.
How to create a more flexible workspace environment
No matter what type of office solution you currently have, we know that the majority of workers crave more flexibility in the workplace. And due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, the trend toward flexible workspaces has accelerated dramatically.
In fact, 73% of respondents to a recent CBRE survey of 126 senior-level global real estate executives say flexible office space will be a part of their long-term real estate strategy. These companies are planning to rethink their real estate strategies so they have more agility, and so should you.
Here are some practical tips to create a more flexible working environment:
Understand your team’s needs: Don’t just apply a one-size-fits-all flex solution to your team. Dig in and understand what mix of flex space features will support your team’s specific workflow: open collaboration space with a handful of phone booths for occasional privacy? Or private offices with café space?
You have to think beyond the cubicle farm (think of the all-too-accurate office satire film, Office Space) and the purely open-plan office and instead embrace transformative designs that offer easy flexibility to facilitate organic movement, various workflows and collaboration.
Embrace on-demand flex spaces: Flex spaces, including coworking solutions, on-demand meeting rooms and a variety of desking options, provide the ultimate flexibility, thanks in large part to flexible lease terms.
Flex space providers are uniquely positioned to support different working styles: Because they work to meet the needs of a wide variety of companies, they need to provide excellent design, quality ergonomics, top perks and amenities and, to keep pace with changing workplace trends, constantly iterate on these designs.
In these arrangements, you can leave the design details and amenities to the pros so you can focus on growing your business.
Create separate working areas: If you’re locked in a traditional lease but want to try your hand at creating a more flexible workspace, try and maximize your square footage. Use simple partitions, like plants, to create a barrier between desk areas and more lounge-like seating areas.
Encourage employees to mix it up: Wherever you are, the flexibility to move around the office has become a valuable workplace perk — workers are more productive when they can work in different places around the office, and outside it. Make sure this is an encouraged activity in your office.
Take this with you: Why flexible designs are coming to all workspaces
Flexible work is not a passing trend. Many employees have been working well beyond their typical desk space for years — answering emails on their way to the office or working on spreadsheets at a local coffee shop to mix up their environment.
Due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant acceleration in the adoption of remote and flexible work has led CBRE to say in a recent report this moment “could be the single biggest lasting change in real estate strategy” in memory.
Companies are being forced to evaluate how they lease and maximize space, which is what makes flexible workspaces and flexible lease terms so appealing — greater control and greater agility, allowing companies to be nimble during times of growth, and in times of uncertainty.
For more information on all things flex, check out our complete guide to flexible workspaces.