How can flexible office space benefit my company?

chris
chris|Updated April 6th 2018

Enabling your team to work in a flexible office space can promote productivity, happiness, health and fun times.

Here at Hubble, we think a lot about how people work. It’s a key part of what we do as humans: it gives us a sense of purpose, it stimulates the gray matter, and it generally keeps us out of mischief. What’s exciting is that the way we work is changing quickly, spurred on by societal and technological change, and it’s heading in exciting directions. It’s not clear that working styles will change beyond all recognition over the coming decade, but equally the patterns of work are being disrupted right across the spectrum, as employees make use of technology (particularly B.Y.O.D. and mobile) to achieve a more flexible working style.

The key, as we’ve said before, is that there is no such thing as work-life balance any more: it’s all just life. If this isn’t a trend you recognise in your current workplace, I’d suggest looking out for it over the next few years. My hunch is that it will be hard to avoid.

Embrace the trend

With that in mind, the question for employers is no longer simply “How can I make my office space happier and more fun“, but rather: how can I leverage ongoing structural changes in the workplace to empower my team, and create more value in my company?

For us here at Hubble, our focus falls on the choice of your office space. Where your team works is a big determinant of how your team works, but the reverse is also true: the needs of your team will play into where they work. Hubble’s vision at its most grandiose is about unlocking the urban landscape to provide places for the amazing people that work within a city to get together and get work done. The key piece of the puzzle is flexibility:

  • Why can’t a bank share desks with a creative agency? Wouldn’t that be better?
  • When accountants need more staff at the end of the tax year, shouldn’t finding desk space for them be as easy as tapping through the Uber app?
  • If remote working for all teams was the rule, not the exception, would people get more done?
  • Can we close the maternity gap by helping new mums find a quiet, flexible office space that is conveniently located near home and nursery?

But that’s enough of me harping on about a grand vision. You want to know how flexible office space can benefit your company today. So, I’ll tell you:

Flexible office space has room to grow and shrink

If your company headcount changes regularly, you need a flexible office space. We see this happen all the time with startups in particular. You build an app from the couch in your living room, and it’s not long before there are five people crammed around your kitchen table – you run out of mugs fast. Before you know it you’ve raised a seed round and the rush is on to step up your growth. You take a private office in a trendy location (maybe you find it via a property broker – shudder), and then BAM – it turns out demand for your app is more seasonal than you thought. You have to let three of your sales team go. Their desks lie vacant, costing you money every day, waiting for the next season to kick off. When it does, you realise your new partnership with that hip content publisher is going to need a couple of freelancers to be churning out blog posts each week – but they want a place to work. You could cram them in near the dev team, but your CTO protests that his devs need a separate, quieter working environment… and what on earth will you do in 8 months when you raise your Series A? It’s a costly, unhelpful situation where employees struggle against the space they’re in, trying to get stuff done. And when the app begins its city-by-city expansion across the rest of the UK, you start worrying about whether you need workspace in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds – but only 2 days a week in each place! And meeting rooms to onboard the new agents? It’s a headache.

We agree with a lot of what Paul Graham says, but we think his take on office space is a bit old-school. He claims companies need to work in their own private space, to generate a “cult” feeling among the team. We think differently. Collaboration, chance meetings, and lower costs are among the upsides of choosing a flexible office space that can allow your team members to work however they want.

What if our fictional app startup above took this approach, and started out using Hubble to find flexible office space in London? First, they’d be out of the founder’s kitchen much faster – even on their shoestring budget. Cheap, no-frills, but still flexible office space is readily available in abundance in London’s many co-working spaces. One of the cheapest we’ve seen is G.O.D. village in Clerkenwell. Hey, that’s right around the corner from the founder’s flat! Handy 🙂

Now they’ve raised their seed round, and they fancy taking some desks in a shared office. That’s a great move because they won’t have to worry about any of the annoying details (plumbing, security, WiFi) but they’re not paying the overheads of a serviced office space in London. Plus, a flexible office space gives them the chance to work alongside other fun, interesting people and companies. Hubble shows them they have lots of options in London, including shared offices in Clerkenwell, shared offices in Southbank and shared offices in Shoreditch.

The great thing about these shared workspaces is that not only do you get flexible office space, but flexible contracts as well. They are almost always on a monthly rolling basis – so when the startup makes that agonising decision to let three of their sales team go during the low season, it’s not a big deal. They only pay for the desks they’re using. Freelancers need a space to join the team next month? There are two desks free – it’s perfect. Or if they’d rather use the loft-style flexible office space in Cook’s yard, they can do whatever helps them work more productively and create better content.

Then they start sending out sales guys to other cities, exploring new avenues and trying new partnerships; they want to figure out where the best place for the next big expansion drive should be. How can they find places to get work done on an ad-hoc basis, anywhere in the country, and only pay for the time they’re using it? Coffee shops are no good… it’s time to whip out their Hubble cards. Hubble has partnered with NearDesk to provide an “Oyster card for workspace” – it’s pay-as-you-go co-working across the UK. Ideal.

So things are looking good for our fictional startup. The team is happy, productive, and their flexible office space fits around their working style – not the other way around. When the Series A rolls around… they’ll know where to look. How about a private office in the dizzy heights of The Shard?

Summing up – stay flexible

I hope that little tale has shone some light on how Hubble’s approach to flexible office space can make life better for companies and the people who work in them throughout the lifecycle of a modern company. We want to help you work better, work happier, and work healthier every day – and we believe flexibility in where you work is the key to unlocking all of this.