Article updated in August 2020.
When businesses think about flexible workspace, they tend to think of one thing: short-term commitment, which is one of the benefits. However as the world of work is quickly evolving, it pays to understand the additional benefits that go with it from reduced risk, the ability to scale up and down reactively, and the opportunity to be more sustainable.
Eight in ten workers around the world say they would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working. As a result, in the last decade, 85% of businesses have introduced a flexible workspace policy or are planning to adopt one, according to IWG’s most recent Global Workspace Survey.
However, whilst adoption of flexible workspace looks set to continue apace, conversations around its business benefits are still largely focused on the minimal commitment it offers companies through short-term leases. Although this is an important consideration not offered by traditional, permanent commercial spaces, there are many other benefits of flexible workspace that are overlooked.
One of the major attractions of flexible workspace is that it offers office space to suit different business needs, from entering markets abroad to keeping operations going in times of crisis. When a business is expanding into a different country for example, flexible workspace can offer a more cost-effective alternative to investing in permanent office space, which may have to be sold again if it doesn’t work out. A famous example of unsuccessful global expansion is international online marketplace eBay’s venture into China. After reporting revenues of $1.21 billion in 2002, the global auction site set up shop in the country one year later, but, after failing to gain an edge over local competitors, was forced to pull out of China in 2006.
Choosing flexible workspace allows businesses to sign and extend contracts, and to end them if required. In this way, flexible workspaces help businesses to achieve their strategic objectives, whilst also reducing the costs associated with growth and expansion.
Tailored office space
When looking at how flexible workspace can fit into a company’s overall strategy, it’s also important to remember that these office spaces can be tailored to a business’ needs. This means that they are completely customisable and, in effect, allow businesses to design their own office, without incurring the heavy costs typically involved in purchasing permanent commercial property. This is something that businesses are trying to avoid more and more, with Europe expected to see 255 million sq ft of flexible workspace in 2019, a 12% increase compared to last year, according to research done by Instant Offices, a platform that allows companies to find available flexible office space.
Having the ability to customise flexible workspaces allows businesses to design their offices in a way that offers maximum efficiency and is consistent with the company’s wider branding and marketing messages. Flexible workspace providers such as IWG have a wide multi-brand offering, which allows businesses to choose the type of office space that suits them best. With five distinct brands, clients have a number of different office styles and cultures to choose from, which is important for businesses looking to find office space that complements and builds upon their brand.
A sustainable solution
Another benefit of flexible working that is often overlooked is its positive contribution to the environment. According to research conducted by Nielson, an international market research organisation, 81% of consumers feel strongly that companies should be implementing strategies to help tackle key sustainability issues such as climate change. Businesses need to react by demonstrating they are acting in a responsible and sustainable way. In this sense, flexible workspace provides the office equivalent of car sharing. It means that, rather than companies investing in permanent commercial spaces, which may be too large for their needs, they opt to work alongside other businesses, maximising space in already built up, central city locations. Also, when looking outside of cities at suburban locations, flexible workspaces also tackle climate change by reducing commute times. By choosing to operate from a flexible workspace, businesses can reduce their negative impact on the environment.
Finally, flexible workspace offers a practical solution for companies by avoiding the unexpected downtime caused by extreme weather, or other disasters. Events such as these can be costly for businesses, especially when it forces the closure of its main offices. It means that employees aren’t able to work as they normally would, with some unable to work at all. This can have dramatic consequences on productivity and a business’ bottom line. Flexible workspaces can help to minimize such losses by offering a practical, dynamic solutions during times of business recovery. They offer a space from which business continuity can be guaranteed, despite unexpected events that are out of a company’s control.
As flexible workspaces become more prevalent in today’s business world, it’s important to take note of the fact that it’s not just the short leases that make them a favourable choice of office space. The flexibility offered goes far beyond this and provides many different benefits, touching all parts of a business, from marketing and finance, to overall strategy and crisis management.
Find out more and make the move to flexspace