Flexible Office Spaces: The New Normal

February 17, 2021 2:05 PM

Looking at the silver lining of what has otherwise been a disastrous year for many, organizations globally have started to experiment with workforce models.

By using managed workspaces, organizations do not need to invest heavily in real estate, enabling them to migrate as per their requirements to bigger or smaller sized setups without worrying about the logistics.

The concept of flexible office space has been revolutionizing the way organizations think about workspaces for quite some time now. Even during the pre-pandemic era, when people didn’t care about masks and remote working was a luxury, flexible office spaces were growing in demand as organizations recognized their potential in helping organizations stay agile to employee need and business cycles.

Flexible workspaces increase collaboration, decrease occupancy costs, and increase portfolio flexibility for organisations large and small. In fact, the raw numbers – square feet occupied – increased by 60%, according to a 2019 CBRE report.

Lessons From the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught everyone invaluable lessons that we’ll carry forward. Two such lessons that affect workplace model choices are:

# The office is ‘social’

In the pre-pandemic era, socializing and watercooler talks were among things taken for granted. However, recent times have really driven the fact that human beings are wired to be social, making this an important factor to consider when designing and choosing a workspace. The right office boosts the social capital of a company and its employees by providing thoughtful amenities and meaningful professional and personal engagement.

# Distributed workspaces are necessary

There certainly are inherent limitations to working from home. But there’s no reason for employees to travel for hours to their workplace, especially in these uncertain times. Deconsolidating and providing multiple smaller but flexible offices offer the best of both worlds, enabling safety while ensuring maximum productivity.
Many organizations have started experimenting with WFH and remote working models and are coming to terms with the inherent limitations of focusing on just one model. These limitations, such as the absence of a workplace culture are generating understandable concern, making organizations look for a ‘Distributed Workspace Model’.

Distributed Workspace Models for the Post Covid-19 Era

The experience of a pandemic that brought the world to a standstill will have a long-lasting impact on the way workplaces function in the future. Occupiers and society will look for a hybrid solution versus an only WFH or only WFO. A distributed workspace model will evolve – one that seeks an equilibrium between central office spaces and satellite offices enabling work near homes and home office setups.

In such a set-up, while conventional office spaces will continue to play a critical role via their use of space, configuration of floor layouts and mix of amenities, the demand for flex offices closer to residential complexes of the talent pool will go up. Commercial real estate players will need to explore offering end-to-end solutions cutting across different parts of the distributed set-up, especially the combination of flex and conventional office space options.

Plus, demand revival and its pace has been unpredictable, leading more organizations to lean towards flexible offerings of managed workplaces.

What Managed Offices have to Offer

Managed Offices, by definition, are furnished office spaces designed specifically according to an individual organization’s needs. As the name suggests, the office spaces would be managed by the service provider, decreasing the company’s burden, enabling them to focus on their operations. They offer:

# Flexibility

When compared to traditional office spaces, managed office spaces are extremely flexible in terms of lease structures. Organizations will be able to work in buildings that suit their custom needs without investing heavily in acquiring their own building or long-term leases.

# Scalability

Unlike traditional office spaces, managed workspaces are scalable and can be tuned up or down specifically according to an organization’s needs. By using managed workspaces, organizations do not need to invest heavily in real estate, enabling them to migrate as per their requirements to bigger or smaller sized setups without worrying about the logistics.

# Increased Focus on Business and Resources

Organizational and management staff need not worry about design choices or the maintenance, furniture, or amenities required for organizations to succeed. Managed workspaces employ experts in charge of workplace design and maintenance, ensuring that you can focus on where it matters the most. Design decisions are taken with productivity as a core tenet – from the placement of windows, lighting, and paint choices.

Co-working V/S Managed Office Spaces

Co-working spaces have also garnered the attention of many in India, especially for organizations that don’t want to commit to an office building yet. However, co-working spaces may not be the right choice for organizations with more than a dozen employees. With increasing headcount, workplace culture becomes a critical factor while co-working spaces are often designed with small organizations, solopreneurs, and freelancers in mind.

While there are similarities between the two models, such as shared infrastructure and flexible lease terms (managed workplaces have slightly more structured leases when compared to co-working spaces), the two models are distinct, with very different merits on offer for different sets of customers.

To Conclude

Looking at the silver lining of what has otherwise been a disastrous year for many, organizations globally have started to experiment with workforce models. Multiple reports and parameters suggest that workforces from across the world, including Copenhagen, Dubai, and Budapest, are moving on to managed, flexible offerings. Managed workplaces, like WorkWell Suites from Max Estates, have a lot to offer and can be the additional edge that an organization needs.

(By Rohit Rajput, CEO, Max Asset Services)

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