What is a Flexible Workspace and Does My Business Need One?

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For many businesses, traditional workplaces have changed drastically over the past few years. While the space still exists physically, the very idea of what a workplace is has been forced to evolve to enable a new approach to work – one that prioritises a flexible workspace.

As a result, these changes have signalled a new way of thinking about work. Whereas before it was seen as a place, it has now become a process detached from a physical location.

So where does that leave the modern workplace? Surely it will continue to exist to some degree. And, if it does, what does that look like?

 

Reimagining the workplace

It is no longer sufficient to hire a space and fill it with desks. Businesses now need to consider how their spaces will be changed by the model of work they have chosen to adopt – whether that’s hybrid working, flexible, or fully remote – and how that model changes the employees’ needs.

Although each model presents new challenges organisationally, it is also worth remembering that it changes things psychologically, too. Now, employees demand a well-thought-out, flexible workplace that fosters collaboration and innovation.

However, this isn’t all just for the benefit of staff, it benefits the employer, too. Reimagining the workplace in line with current trends helps them get the pick of the talent pool to stay competitive. CBRE, for example, found that 71% of employees are willing to concede other benefits to work in a well-designed workplace. 

These kinds of workplaces also encourage interaction. Fewer walls and more open space builds a culture of innovation – an important part of any business. It’s also true that better physical and mental health boosts productivity and, as an added bonus, absenteeism is reduced significantly.

So, with all that in mind, it’s perfectly normal for businesses to be left scratching their heads, asking what their office should actually look like. While it depends on the model (and the industry to some extent) there are a few things businesses can consider.

 

Flexible Workspace Quote

 

What is a flexible workspace?

A flexible workspace, or a flexible office space, is a place designed with the specific intent of giving employees as much freedom and flexibility as possible. Flexible workspaces enable employees to work freely without a need for fixed desks, instead choosing a part of the office that better suits them.

Additionally, flexible workspaces enable a greater degree of freedom for hybrid or flexible working models. For instance, an employee that spends the majority of the week working remotely might wish to attend sporadically for in-person meetings, team building and face-to-face collaboration.

Without the flexibility afforded by a flexible workspace, this leads to lots of wasted space and employer uncertainty, so it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve this level of flexibility in a traditional office setting.

Conceptually speaking, flexible workspaces can be rearranged and reconfigured with minimal disruption to the business. However, not all flexible offices take this approach, instead opting for fixed features like break-out rooms and desk clusters. This also offers a greater degree of freedom, but with a trade-off.  

Workspaces that take a fully flexible approach to space are able to scale up or scale down to accommodate changes in team size. This can lead to significant cost savings for businesses with underutilised space, enabling them to modify the footprint of their corporate real estate to suit the changing needs of the business.

 

Flexible Workspace Office

 

What are the features of a flexible workspace?

Adaptable workstations

Flexible workspaces often include unfixed, non-traditional workstations that can be moved or reconfigured as necessary. Comfortable workstations in communal areas and a range of desk configurations promote movement, which in turn breeds collaboration and communication.

 

Open-plan spaces

Open-plan offices aren’t a new idea, they’ve been around for over a century. Typically, these spaces were open plan for one reason and one reason only – to accommodate as many workers in a single space as physically possible. While this may have been necessary for an age when digital communication was impossible, nowadays it is not. Instead, today’s open-plan concept is used to improve cross-departmental collaboration, promoting innovation, transparency and equity.

 

Breakout areas

Open, flexible offices do have a downside – an increase in ambient noise. This makes it hard for some people to work, so breakout areas and quiet spaces are common in flexible workspaces. Breakout rooms or secluded areas are perfect for those who need space to focus, and they can also double up as informal meeting areas. 

 

Shared office space

With the increased flexibility a flexible workspace offers, some businesses are able to share their office spaces with other organisations. The main benefit of this is that it reduces the cost of overheads for the primary business, which can receive income on a dormant asset when it would otherwise be wasted.

 

Does your business need a flexible workspace?

These days, employees crave flexibility. With the culture shift largely brought about by the pandemic, the way many of us work has been changed and so too have our expectations. It’s now down to business leaders to make a plan for the future. 

For established businesses, that change might appear daunting at first. But with the right insight, it’s perfectly feasible. Companies like Beringar are making it easy for businesses to understand and make informed decisions about their spatial needs through smart sensors and data. 

When it comes down to reimagining the workplace, many are led to believe that a mechanised office loaded with futuristic technology will be the norm. Instead, it’s much simpler – the change towards a flexible, agile space is measured and staged. Ultimately, it’s driven by what the data tells us.

Only through this approach are we able to drive productivity and save significant costs on corporate real estate, while at the same time meeting the rapidly changing needs of our employees. Work is evolving, so it’s time to catch up.

 

Picture of Mark Sorsa-Leslie

Mark Sorsa-Leslie

A Chartered Surveyor with a passion for technology. Developed a range of computer applications to support my work in real estate in the UK and 5 business start-ups so far. Over the last 25 years I have developed solutions ranging from eLearning platforms to IoT sensors and have been the bridge between business people and technology people throughout my career.

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