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Everything is a flex-working space – or very soon will be

If we had a pound for every time we saw the terms ‘flexible working’ or ‘hybrid working’… well, we’d all be living the high life. It’s an inescapable fall-out from the pandemic that every man and his dog is now debating if, how and when they manage the return to the office after the best part of 18 months away.

Flippancy aside, there’s no doubt that our office spaces will be vastly different as we move forward, with the rows of desks model reserved for localised ‘spoke’ centres, and other spaces converted into collaborative, adaptable ‘hubs’ where human interaction (at a distance, if needs be) is the core priority. WFH will also become much more common, meaning that the emphasis will be on how to connect these remote workers seamlessly with their office-based colleagues.

Flexing for the future

Initially, there was some doubt about whether the pre-COVID surging success of the flexible, co-working sector led by companies such as WeWork and Regus would survive once lockdown hit and mass remote working became the norm. The thought of returning to co-habitable spaces of any kind was at best concerning and at worst unthinkable. However, as the crisis unfolded and thoughts turned to how life and work would be managed in the future, a new solution started to emerge: a flex-working space approach which could accommodate everybody’s preferences and meet COVID-secure standards.

A survey by the commercial real estate services firm CBRE, published at the tail-end of 2020, found that about 86 percent of tenants said they saw flex-working space as a key part of their future real estate strategies. As vaccinations roll out and lockdowns ease, this positive outlook is continuing to gather pace, as the industry and the public at large realise the potential of adaptable, well-connected buildings and spaces that can bridge the gap between those present and those working remotely.

Companies like WeWork have, unsurprisingly, lapped up this renewed interest and faith in their model and are now responding accordingly. WeWork itself said the pandemic had given them the opportunity to reinvent and refine their offering, and now claim to have ‘emerged as a partner of choice for businesses large and small looking for flexibility as they return to work.’ The question remains whether businesses like this can re-engineer their propositions to provide the flex-grade tech and experience that is now required, rather than their pre-lockdown ‘co-working’ model

Essentially, the message is that flex-working space companies can now cater to even more audiences, rather than just smaller companies who may have opted for their spaces previously, rather than shelling out on building leases and owned square-footage. Now, they can continue to offer space to these smaller players but also service the bigger corporates looking for hybrid hub spaces and the local ‘spoke’ offices to support remote workers wanting to come in on an ad-hoc basis without the burden of a city centre commute.

However, as credible as this claim may be, isn’t it time we embraced the fact that every working space now has the capacity (and perhaps the requirement) to function as a flex-working space?

Ubiquitous flexible working

Hardly anybody is contemplating being ‘in the office’ from 9-5, Monday-Friday anymore and the remote working many of us have experienced over the last 18 months has also taught us exactly what is possible, or even preferable, about working from home.

We need to stop drawing a distinction between ‘traditional’ corporate spaces and flex-working spaces and focus on transferring the technology and flexibility they offer into every working environment.

What this means is that every commercial building or ‘office’ space now needs to be equipped with the right features and technology to cope with these shifting requirements and crucially, to provide a seamless experience for those using them. Rather than thinking about ‘enterprise-grade’ technology, we need to start thinking about ‘flex-grade’ technology – combining the security and reliability of enterprise infrastructure with the seamless five-star user experience currently implemented in the hospitality sector. You can read more of our thoughts on this here.

Contemporary workspaces will now all have to include core features or services which cater not only to those occupying the spaces but also to those working remotely, connecting the whole workforce wherever and however they choose to work. These features include:

  • Enhanced user experience: unless people enjoy working in a building, they can and will most likely choose not to. Like 5 star hotels, workspaces need to be enticing, welcoming, and highly functional to provide an enjoyable, interactive, seamless experience.
  • Occupancy management: thanks to COVID, room & desk booking, managing occupancy levels and frictionless access / exit controls need to be in place to monitor who is in, who’s out, and where people are. Read more about this here.
  • Connectivity: no flex-workspace will work well unless the correct infrastructure is in place to support high quality communications systems, Wi-Fi, mobile and shared networks, to ensure everybody has access to whatever and whomever they need.

Now more than ever, traditional, siloed, manually operated FM/ICT solutions and support contracts are no longer fit for purpose, and businesses wanting to ensure they offer seamless, flexible experiences will want as simple and fuss-free a way of modernising their spaces as possible.

LMG’s holistic multi-technology deployment and support model gives corporate owner/occupiers, landlords and main contractors the greater flexibility they now need in terms of how they operate and manage their properties, without having to work with multiple contractors to get the job done.

We are ready to lead the charge with a completely new approach to building technology as we continue to navigate ‘the office 2.0’. Get in touch to find out more.