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Rob Wood

 
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Why flexible offices aren’t just for small businesses

The days of the typical 9-to-5 office space are being discarded in preference for flexible work spaces. While at first it was smaller organisations making use of flexible space, larger corporates are now increasingly adding flexible space to their portfolios. Santander recently opened its first work café in the UK and HSBC has been working with WeWork since 2017. This is notable since the banking sector traditionally makes transitions more slowly as they are highly conscientious of potential security issues. While the benefits of flexible spaces are clear for small enterprises or those testing the waters before expanding, why are so many large corporations opting for these spaces?

Flexible office spaces simplify the office experience by allowing a corporation to rent a space or pay a membership and have facilities taken care of. These spaces can be taken over any time period, so corporations avoid paying for space they don’t need, greatly reducing cost and risk of spending on unnecessary space. They also give staff the opportunity to work alongside people from smaller businesses in their industry, which can be a great learning and collaboration opportunity.

In the current political and economic climate, predicting future capacities of organisations is especially difficult. As such, corporations of all sizes are becoming more cognisant of the need for flexibility. Holding a long-term lease in this environment is becoming more of a risk and could be a financial drain. There is also an extensive list of goods and services which need to be sourced at each new traditional office space. While larger corporations tend to be able to absorb these added short-term costs, there is no longer a need to.

Flexible spaces are designed to adapt with businesses. They can grow and shrink with an organisation and make moving to a new area to test a market or get closer to customers a far simpler process with less capital expenditure. For many organisations, widespread presence is beneficial and flexible spaces offer opportunities for this. While working remotely has become more common, there is still no replacement for a face-to-face meeting and travel across the country can be expensive. Businesses can also boast a lower carbon footprint by reducing commutes.

Flexible office spaces aren’t for all organisations but those large and small can see clear benefits. When big business move large numbers of staff to flexible offices the total savings can be significant. Through the use of flexible offices, Unilever has reduced its worldwide footprint by 40 per cent

Although the overall number of corporates utilising flexible space as a core element of their real estate strategy is still relatively modest, over two thirds of global corporates plan to increase their use of flexible coworking and collaborative space over the next three years.

The slower uptake of flexible space can be down to a number of factors including expiry of existing leases, maturity of market presence, cost benefit, and of course an organisation’s culture, but senior executives are clearly waking up to the benefits. We can expect to see plenty more news stories in the coming months about corporates from a range on industries taking their first steps into flexible office space.

 

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