Flex space

Flex office software: give your team a new lease on workspace

In the pre-pandemic era, the office was a set-in-stone fixture of the daily grind, a place where employees congregated daily. The pandemic disrupted this pattern, catapulting us into the future of work faster than we could have predicted. 

In 2022, flex space accounted for less than 2% of total U.S. office inventory. and an even smaller portion is next-generation space with a mix of private space and shared amenities. Year to date data from JLL shows that the overall footprint of US based offices is actually shrinking.

And yet… teams, leaders, companies and employees want an office experience. They want a centralized location for work. So commercial real estate firms and landlords want to pivot to flexible office spaces, but they're often uncertain about how to do so.

A survey by Cushman & Wakefield and a major coworking brand across London, Singapore, and New York has found increasing demand for flexible office space. This data suggests that flexible office spaces can be a valuable addition to diverse office ecosystems, catering to the increasing demand for workplace flexibility.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • Participants currently use flexible office space for 40% of their work time, spend 55% working at home, and the remaining 5% in other locations. However, they expressed the desire to increase their use of flexible office space to 50% of their time, thus reducing their work from home time to about 45% — marking a 19% decrease.
  • Factors driving preference for flexible office spaces include: the ability for the space to feel like an extension of the employee’s traditional office and culture, support for employee wellbeing, and the availability of both the right technology and spaces for collaboration.
  • As per Despina Katsikakis, Executive Partner and Global Lead of Total Workplace at Cushman & Wakefield, the data reaffirms that flexible office locations can be part of a diverse office ecosystem that not only supports employee flexibility but also enhances their performance.

This survey reaffirms the growing trend of using flex office spaces and the need for such solutions in the evolving landscape of the global workforce.

The real estate sector has typically been slower to adopt new technologies. Significant progress is needed, particularly in bringing together and presenting to users the available flexible office spaces. 

New platforms are currently being developed that will allow users to search for, book, monetize, and monitor space use. The advancement of these technology platforms is crucial for fostering growth, enhancing the user experience, and encouraging healthy competition within the flexible office space market.

In this new world, flex office software can be your best asset

So, what exactly is flex office software? Put simply, it's a digital tool that helps you manage and optimize your office space. It allows employees to book workspace or meeting rooms and helps administrators design layouts for maximum efficiency and productivity. It's the backbone of an agile office setup that caters to a workforce that can work remotely but still values the opportunity for a dedicated work environment. 

What then should you look for in flex office software? Here are some critical attributes:

  1. User-friendly: Any software you choose should be intuitive and easy to use. If it takes a week-long seminar to understand how to book a desk or a meeting room, it's probably not the best choice. The goal is to create a seamless process that does not add more stress to the daily grind.
  2. Flexible and scalable: The best flex office software should grow with you. Whether you're a small team of ten or a corporation of thousands, your software should adapt to your needs. It should also be flexible enough to manage different types of spaces, whether these are cubicles, private offices, meeting rooms, or open spaces for collaboration.
  3. Real-time updates: A high-quality flex office software should provide real-time updates on space availability. Nothing is more frustrating than double-booking a meeting room. Real-time updates ensure that everyone is on the same page, promoting a sense of order and organization.
  4. Analytics and reporting: This software should not just manage your space but should also provide insights into how your space is used. Data on space utilization can help you make evidence-based decisions when reconfiguring your office for optimal use. 
  5. Integration: Good flex office software should be able to integrate with other software tools your team uses. Whether it's calendars, project management tools, or communication platforms, your office software should play well with others.

Flexibility is no longer a luxury, but a necessity of the modern workforce. We are transitioning to a world where a single rigid office layout doesn't cut it anymore. The workforce, having adapted to working remotely, now demands options. 

The good news is that adopting a flex office approach doesn't mean losing the benefits of a dedicated work environment. In fact, it enhances it. It fosters an environment where employees can work how they want, where they want, and when they want while still providing the collaborative spirit and sense of community that an office space brings. 

Like community managers in coworking spaces, office managers have a crucial role to play in this transition. Embracing change, welcoming remote workers back into physical office spaces, and optimizing the office layout to meet these new demands will set the tone for the future of work in your organization.

With the right flex office software, you can make this transition seamless and efficient. You'll create an office space that is not just a place to work, but a dynamic, adaptable environment that meets the needs of your evolving workforce. 

coworkers in flex office space

What can flex office space learn from coworking?

Thankfully, the coworking industry has laid significant groundwork for the rising flex office market. Space management platforms like Coworks are ideal for flex offices, having been forged in the world of flexible workspaces since 2018.

So what do coworking space operations know that flex offices should as well?

Lead with community

Coworking spaces are not just about the physical space. They are hives of community, providing an environment that fosters collaboration and innovation. Commercial real estate professionals can learn from this by focusing on creating spaces that encourage interaction and connection. This could be as simple as designing open spaces for informal meetings or including communal areas like coffee stations where people can naturally come together.

Offer flexible terms

Coworking spaces often operate on flexible lease terms, allowing businesses to scale up or down as their needs change. This kind of flexibility can be appealing to many businesses, especially startups and SMEs. Commercial real estate professionals can learn from this by offering more flexible terms to their tenants, and office managers can offer flexible usage patterns for employees and teams.

Amenities that go above and beyond

The coworking industry understands that today's workers want more than just a desk and a chair. Amenities like high-speed internet, access to printers, coffee machines are a given. Think bigger, such as wellness spaces and entertainment zones, services like meal deliveries, laundry, and after works networking can make using the office even more desirable. 

Design for productivity and authenticity

Yes, coworking spaces often have a cool factor. There is no reason why flex offices can take a page from coworking, and bring in more creative color palettes, local artwork, a mix of hard and software furnishings. 

That also includes elements that will enable a more productive environment. From natural lighting to ergonomic furniture and acoustic management, every aspect of the design should be carefully thought out to support different kinds of work and work styles. Commercial real estate professionals can learn from this by keeping productivity in mind when designing or renovating their spaces. 

Be tech-centric and mobile-first

The best coworking spaces integrate technology seamlessly. They use tech tools to manage bookings, provide real-time updates on space availability, and offer features like keyless entry. Commercial real estate professionals can learn from this by making sure their properties are equipped with the technology businesses expect and need in the modern work environment. 

By understanding and incorporating these elements, flex office space professionals can make their properties more appealing to remote workers, and foster a sense of community and productivity that makes their spaces more than just places to work.

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