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16.12.2021 Back to Blog articles

What Is A Flexible Office or Workspace and Why They Arent The Same

Before the pandemic hit businesses were already moving towards offering employees increased flexibility in their working hours and environment. However, during the pandemic, any businesses that were resistant to these changes were forced to offer more flexibility than they may have been comfortable with. With that said, after 18 months of ‘forced’ remote and flexible working many businesses have grown to embrace and even love the change to their work culture.

So What Is Going To Be The ‘New Normal’ For Businesses?

To be completely honest, moving forward, we don’t think there are going to be any specific rights and wrongs when it comes to the working environment a business and office should offer. The most important thing for any business owner to bear in mind is that you need to do what is going to work for you, your business and your employees!

In the ever-evolving world of business, ‘flexibility’ will remain to be one of the most important keywords when it comes to office space. With that said, despite the evolutions in technology pre-pandemic, many businesses have been reluctant to support remote working on a large scale. However, remote working is fast becoming one of the most desirable benefits that employers can offer without a significant cost and upheaval to the company. This growth in popularity has been highlighted in various studies with millennials being one of the key drivers pushing for its adoption, for example 69% of millennials would give up other work benefits for a more flexible working space.

Due to the pandemic, how we view our workspace and its space utilisation has also changed. For example, how much area an employee needs in an office has also changed; with employers no longer able to cram as many desks into their office space as they can. With that said, many employers are also realising that employees don’t necessarily need a dedicated desk to work at every day, especially when employees work part-time or remotely part-time and therefore not in the office every day.

What Is A Flexible Workspace?

It is important to note that there is a lot of confusion around the definitions of terms such as shared, coworking and flexible office spaces! Put simply the term ‘flexible workspace’ is commonly used to describe a range of office types favoured by tenants and employers for their increased flexibility, reduced costs and improved collaboration.
If we were to look at these types of flexible office spaces as a spectrum, coworking and flex workspaces would be at the most flexible end of the scale with flexi-time and serviced business offices being at the other. Generally, coworking and flexible workspaces are loved for a variety of reasons however the most popular 2 are:

  • Space operators can provide spaces for 1 to 100+
  • Space operators can offer space on a variety of terms from Pay As You Go, for a single day, on a 1 day a week contract right thorough to a longer-term contracts

It is important to note that the term ‘flex workspace’ is different from 'flexible workspace'. Flex workspace typically extends to so much more than just allowing employees to share desks if they work part-time, remotely or to rent out spare desk space to other companies and contractors.

Put simply, a 'flex workspace' is an office space that can be adapted to whatever its users need both easily and quickly. For example, an office space that can be individual desks in the morning, a semi-private meeting room in the afternoon and a relaxed design break out space the next day with minimum hassle to employers and employees. While this undoubtedly creates a dynamic space, fostering communication, collaboration and promoting better space utilisation and efficiency; it is not an office style for everyone. Those who love this style of working love it because it can help to break down specialism barriers in the office, encouraging skill-sharing and diversification within employees and teams. With that said, despite the rapid growth and adoption of more flexible workplaces ‘flex workspaces’ (i.e. workspaces that are purposely designed for 100% flexible working) account for only around 5% of total London office space.

So does that mean people aren’t working in flexible workplaces?

In simple terms no! This is where the confusion regarding the definition of flexible working, flexible workspace, coworking and flexible offices become clear.

All flexible offices are flexible workspaces but not all flexible workspaces are flexible offices!

The concept of flexible working has been a growing trend for the past 10 years but it has been rocketed into mainstream awareness due to the covid pandemic when companies and employees alike were forced to embrace the concept of working remotely, whether they wanted to or not. However, many businesses were able to see the potential benefits of supporting more flexible working and as they try to move forward they are integrating this style of working into their ‘new normal’.

While some argue that flexible workspaces piggybacked off of the back of the coworking concept others would argue that this adoption of a more collaborative ‘hybrid’ form of working is purely down to the evolution in how we work and why as well as where.

When it comes down to it, it is essential to remember that flexible workspaces are a spectrum and the pure nature of this style of working means that there are endless possibilities and variations. Put simply, it is not something that has a clear definition!

In summary, flexible workspaces often promote and foster a collaborative and skill-sharing ethos and opportunities but it is not a requirement. Similarly, a flexible workspace is adaptable to its users needs but this does not have to mean that the whole office can transform into a totally different space! However you look at it; flexible workspaces will always be needed whether it is in the form of a curated coworking hub, a shared office or a fully flex office. However a more flexible work environment is also quickly becoming something we expect as standard and therefore how we define these terms will continue to evolve as our expectations and needs change.

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