Over the past decade, flexible workspaces have transformed from a convenient office solution for startups and freelancers to a strategic decision among enterprise companies and landlords.
The best flex spaces offer attractive workspaces and meeting rooms with equally attractive amenities and services — all on flexible leasing terms that range from monthly memberships to longer term contracts.
But too often, the term flexible workspace evokes confusion.
Some say flexible workspaces are different than coworking spaces. Others say coworking spaces are a type of flex space. And still, others say that as long as the lease terms for a workspace are flexible (i.e., not a traditional straight lease of space) and there are desks and chairs and maybe a coffee pot… well, it’s a flexible workspace.
Given the growing popularity of flexible workspaces, we’ve decided to clear the air on what a flex space is — and what their role is in today’s work world.
In this guide, you’ll find information on:
Flexible Workspace – Noun. A fully serviced office with dedicated workspaces, amenities and furnishings available to companies and professionals via flexible lease terms that can run from monthly memberships to short-term and longer-term leases. Also known as flex space.
Coworking is the most commonly talked about type of flex space, and the one that gets the lion’s share of attention. Part of this has to do with its relative age compared to other variants of flex space. While coworking spaces have gained significant attention in the past decade, the term coworking was first coined in 1999 — and the first coworking space opened in 2005.
Today, coworking is just one type of flex space.
By definition, “flexible workspace” is an umbrella term that describes a range of office solutions that include coworking spaces, private offices, on-demand meeting rooms and executive suites.
Different providers offer different mixes of flex space solutions, but they are all tied together by one defining attribute: flexibility from long-term leases (more on that later).
Here are just a few of the most common types of flexible space solutions:
Flexible space includes a range of office solutions that are on the rise: coworking, private offices, meeting rooms and executive suites. These spaces often include amenities and perks with everything from Wi-Fi to coffee. All of these workspaces share flexible lease terms, which range from monthly memberships to multi-year leases.
What are the Benefits of a Flexible Workspace?
The move toward more flex space offerings by professionals and companies isn’t surprising. For many, flex space holds a number of benefits and key advantages over traditional office leases.
That’s why an American Occupier Survey found that 85% of real estate executives say they will adopt flexible-office solutions into their portfolio strategy in the next three years. And even though flex space only accounts for 2% of total office space at present, that figure is expected to rise to more than 13% by 2030.
Here are just some of the key benefits flexible workspaces offer:
Flex spaces offer a host of benefits including flexible lease terms that give companies greater control; fully outfitted workspaces with furniture, technology and amenities all contributing to reduced occupancy costs; and fully amenitized office spaces, leading to an improved employee experience.
Historically, flex space solutions have been favored by freelancers and startups. But the benefits of flex spaces are fueling an increase in demand among corporate occupiers — and that demand is fueling larger growth in the industry.
This increased demand has been particularly evident among enterprise companies with many looking at flex spaces as temporary solutions while they grow or renovate larger main offices. Some companies are using flex spaces to open satellite offices in new and desirable locations, whether for innovation purposes or to use as a secondary HQ.
“The Fortune 500 is engaged and intrigued,” says CBRE. “85% of real estate executives plan to implement flexible-office solutions into their portfolio strategy … [yet] enterprise customers are early in the implementation stage of flexible-office solutions as a portfolio strategy.” As of 2020, flex space only accounts for 2% of total office space. But that figure is expected to rise to more than 13% by 2030.
This demand from Fortune 500 companies is triggering growth in the industry — and impacting what type of workspaces flex space providers offer.
CBRE found that flex space supply has grown by an average of 26% annually since 2010, with even larger growth expected ahead. And where flex space offerings have traditionally been anchored around coworking space, industry providers are now working to offer more private office space with key things enterprise customers demand such as improved technology, added privacy and better-quality workspaces.
Flexible workspaces are also growing outside of urban centers to meet demand from enterprise companies and professionals.
While the biggest flex space markets are still found in bustling metro areas like San Francisco, Manhattan, Miami, Los Angeles, Austin, Seattle and Denver, flex space is expanding into the suburbs with larger private office offerings cropping up to fuel increasing demand among enterprise occupiers.
Flex spaces are expanding and adapting to meet the needs of a growing list of flex users. No longer the sole domain of freelancers looking to get out of the house, flexible workspaces are beginning to fill the needs of corporate and enterprise occupiers looking for high-quality workspaces with flexible lease terms, and estimates predict that flex space inventory will continue to grow at rapid rates.
Over the past decade, flexible workspaces have been synonymous with communal work areas, community programming and to a large degree, coworking. But as enterprise demand for flexible workspaces has grown, the focus on community in flex spaces is steadily shifting towards a focus on productivity.
This is apparent in the demands enterprise companies — and lone-wolf professionals, for that matter — are placing on flexible workspace providers.
Some of the biggest demands come down to a few basic elements:
Taken together, these common paint points often detract from employee productivity — and push enterprise occupiers away.
Addressing these concerns has become a top-line item for flex space providers, which are increasingly reorienting their workspaces around productivity.
As enterprise demand for flex space grows, flex space providers are moving to create more productive spaces by solving common pain paints in their workspace designs. Part of this involves improving key workspace features such as acoustics and ergonomic comfort; another part involves improving digital security and offering increased privacy. Flex space providers are also moving to separate community events and programming from the core workspaces to limit distractions.
From coworking spaces with hot desks (and dedicated desks) to private flexible offices and on-demand meeting rooms, flex spaces offer a number of office solutions for professionals and are increasingly maturing to meet the needs of corporate and enterprise occupiers.
Thanks to benefits like flexible lease terms, reduced occupancy costs and attractive amenities, experts predict significant growth in the flex space market over the next decade. And that’s a plus for professionals, high-growth companies and enterprise occupiers looking for more flexibility in their space planning decisions.
To learn more about our research into the perks employees really care about, explore our white paper Forget Foosball: People Want a Better Place to Work, Not Play.
As the Content Strategist at Hana, my job involves digging deep into the present and future of flexible workspaces and coworking. When I'm not working my way through industry trends, you can find me working my way through a book or looking for the perfect taco stand in Austin, Texas.
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