By Jon Seal, Managing Director at technologywithin
In spite of a turbulent year, flexible workspace operators can and should be optimistic about the resilience of the sector over the coming twelve months. Even as another lockdown hinders short-term recovery, there remain reasons for confidence in Boris Johnson’s recent prediction that workers will flood back to the office post-pandemic.
In fact, there is a growing realisation across the economy that permanent home working is unsustainable for both business productivity and employee wellbeing. Increasing emphasis on flexibility and technology, driven by new generations of workers and businesses, is rapidly making flexspace hot property. So, while it’s unlikely that pandemic-era workers will return to the office of old, flexspace is perfectly placed to accommodate the needs of modern workers.
With the challenges of the pandemic driving a boom in innovation and entrepreneurship, flexspace managers will benefit by appealing to the UKs SMEs, roughly half of which have enjoyed improvements in productivity as a result of working flexibly during the pandemic . Young businesses will value space which enables them to grow in this tricky economic climate without tying them down to long-term leases.
Flexspace providers are also ideally placed to capitalise on appetite for innovation because they can accommodate on a highly valued ingredient: face-to-face collaboration. While older offices struggle to become Covid-compliant, flexspace providers can more easily mould their offerings to meet growing demand for space which facilitates teamwork. Their nimble approach will enable them to turn lower densities from a cause for concern to a valuable selling-point in the year ahead.
Operators should note that millennials became the majority generation within the UK workforce for the first time last year, as this group are more conscious of their right to a work/life balance than their predecessors. This increased demand for flexibility will ensure that the news ways of working made mainstream by the pandemic are in fact here to stay.
Similarly, more environmentally conscious than previous generations, millennials will aim to cut out commuting wherever possible, saving themselves precious time and hopefully saving the planet from all the emissions too. This trend is good news for flexspace providers with regional and suburban offerings, which can boast the benefits of both office culture and remote working.
Power To The People
For many businesses, this decentralisation had already begun before the pandemic, which has only hastened the rise of the hub and spoke model at the expense of traditional central HQs. But the growing popularity of flexspace is also being driven by democratisation, as workers increasingly assert their preference for more flexible models of working.
Employers have rightly recognised the benefits that hybrid models such as the hub and spoke offer their workers, who for their part are unlikely to surrender their newfound flexibility post-pandemic. More businesses will therefore go the way of Standard Chartered, offering employees the option of flexible working. This is good news for flexspace, which is best equipped to support the more malleable patterns of work which organisations of all sizes increasingly prefer.
Trust In Tech
Increasing millennial influence will also reinforce tech as a key ingredient in any attractive, competitive workspace offering – and failing to upgrade their spaces would be a recipe for disaster for operators.
Luckily for flexspace managers, their spaces are already better equipped than both traditional HQs and home-based offices, providing a firm foundation for embracing the latest developments in smart office technology. Superfast broadband, cloud solutions, and remote telephony are already office essentials, while virtual networking platforms, user-friendly room-booking systems, and AI-driven facilities management systems can enhance flexspace’s competitive edge in 2021 and beyond.
Optimism And Opportunity
So, flexspace managers can afford to be optimistic about the year ahead. But they cannot afford to be complacent. Trends favouring technology, flexibility, and newer ways of working provide the flexspace sector with opportunities to deliver on forecast growth as high as 21% in 2021, as long as operators keep this changing landscape of tenants’ demands firmly in focus.