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Rob Wood

 
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Why the Flexible Work Space Trade Association has Rebranded

We’re all well-aware of the continued rise in flexible working spaces, along with the expectation that this trend will show no signs of slowing down. Property firm JLL predicts that flexible working spaces are set to grow by 30 percent annually over the next five years across Europe

So it perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise that last month the Business Centre Association, the UK’s flexible workspace trade body, announced that it was changing its name to the Flexible Space Association (FlexSA).

The organisation is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and there have been massive changes in the business centre space over this time, especially in the last five years as the demand for flexible office space has exploded. Savills found that in 2018 flexible office space take-up across Europe increased by 20 percent from the previous year, with major financial centres such as London and Paris at the forefront. 

The new name is recognition that traditional business centres are just one of many types of space within the sector, which includes serviced office space, flexible office space and co-working space.

One of the main driving forces behind the continued demand for flexible working spaces has been larger corporate companies moving away from the traditional office building. Major corporations such as HSBC, Facebook and MasterCard all have serviced and flexible spaces as part of their property portfolios. As of 2018, corporate occupiers made up about 25 percent of WeWork’s members and revenues.

The benefits of utilising these spaces are numerous and include more versatile leasing options; having all building management services taken care of; increased employee productivity and happiness; and better talent attraction and retention by keeping pace with modern workplace trends.

Some companies have even gone a step further and created their own co-working spaces. In 2014 Orange launched Villa Bonne Nouvelle, a ‘corpoworking’ space that had a mix of Orange employees and freelancers. The idea was to expose Orange staff to working with people outside the company and proved such a success that other spaces are in the works, and other companies have since followed suit. In July, Santander opened its first UK Work Café in Leeds. The café offers a mix of banking services and co-working space, and the bank operates 50 other Work Cafés in Europe and South America.

While flexible office space used to be primarily smaller businesses, start-ups and freelancers for whom taking on a traditional office space is not feasible, that’s changed substantially over the past five years with corporates increasing their use of these new models. 

Savills predicts that the big trend for 2019 will be the growth of more niche spaces that cater to one particular industry. And it may be that we see a whole raft of services added to spaces, much like the Google and Facebook campuses.

When you consider all of these elements it’s little wonder that FlexSA opted for a new name. They will certainly feel that they represent all of these areas and that the term ‘business centre’ has an outdated feel, especially with younger generations. 

I believe the rebrand was a necessary one and look forward to seeing how FlexSA will support such a rapidly-evolving sector in the years ahead.

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