Recent events have caused a seismic shift in the way that businesses think about office space. Previous norms have been called into question—one desk per person, five days a week is no longer the de facto way of working, and many employers are now re-evaluating exactly what they need from their workspace.
Without a doubt, we anticipate that many will incorporate more remote working into their company practices. But most businesses acknowledge that they will still need some form of office space, albeit less regularly or less of it. This, in turn, means that office providers need to change with the times to address these new use cases.
We asked over 60 of London’s flexible office operators how they’re responding to COVID-19, and if they’re adapting their services in any way. The short answer? Yes. Here are some of the brand new initiatives that operators are introducing to address businesses’ new needs in this changing world of work:
Here’s what we asked, and how providers responded—then scroll down for more insights:
Are you adapting your business model in any of the following ways?
Are you adjusting your pricing in any of the following ways?
Whilst flexible office space is, by definition, already very flexible (offering short-term contracts instead of traditional 5-10 year leases)—41% of the operators we surveyed are taking steps to make their services even more flexible right now.
For instance, many are open to rolling start dates. Understanding that many businesses are not in a position to return to the office yet, 25% of operators will allow businesses to sign an office now, but only move in later. This also means that you can lock in a good price for the future.
Other extra flexibility is taking the form of shorter notice periods, or more on-demand memberships. Work.Life, for instance, are allowing businesses to access their workspaces for as little as one day at a time. Ben Garner, their Membership Sales Executive, said:
“We’re working hard to ensure that we can provide businesses with the services they’ll need both now and in the future. At Work.Life, for example, businesses can access our workspaces on a daily, weekly or fortnightly basis, whichever suits them. In the future, businesses will want freedom and that’s exactly we aim to offer.”
Extra access passes for smaller offices
Whilst many businesses are keen to integrate remote working into future practices, they’re also reluctant to pay for large offices that will very rarely be fully-occupied. That’s why many of the companies we’re talking to are seeking smaller office space than they had previously, but that their whole team can access as and when they need it.
Providers are responding by allowing businesses to take extra access passes for smaller office space, or including extra hot desk memberships in their package, so that different employees can use the office space on different days. 29% of the operators we surveyed have already started offering this, and we believe that this figure will only increase over time as businesses put their new plans into action.
The Worker’s League are amongst the providers ahead of the curve here. They’ve already helped Ecomnova take this approach:
“By ending our dedicated office lease and taking on a blend of dedicated desks and hot desks at The Worker’s League, Ecomnova has reduced overheads significantly and the team has benefited from increased flexibility in working arrangements, great meeting room facilities, communal areas including breakout booths, social events, free food (!) and networking opportunities with like-minded businesses.” Anthony Newman, CTO and Co-founder said.
“For SME businesses with a mix of home working and office-based work, particularly in the post-Covid-19 era, I can recommend that you try a coworking space with TWL!”
Multi-location passes for distributed teams
For some businesses, giving employees access to a workspace takes precedence over having everyone in the same workspace. This is particularly important for team members who need specific equipment, for example—or those who can’t work at home.
Operators with multiple sites are addressing this by means of multi-location passes, so that businesses’ employees can access any of the workspaces in their portfolio. This means that team members further from the “main office” are able to head to one that’s more convenient for them— thus avoiding long commutes, and potentially even allowing them to walk, run, or cycle to work.
Multi-location access was already offered by some operators even before COVID-19; Mindspace, for instance, has always prided itself on their global network. But we anticipate this service becoming even more commonplace over the coming months, as the workspace becomes increasingly decentralised—and 14% have already introduced this since the pandemic.
Did you know that 50% of office providers are also providing additional parking and bike facilities to make it easier for members to drive or cycle to work?
Office timeshares / part-time office space
An alternative approach that some businesses are taking is having a set number of “office days”, dedicated times when the whole team will be in the office. Team-related activities can then be organised for these days—company all-hands, internal meetings, socials, etc—and the rest of the time the team works remotely.
As a result, businesses are reluctant to take a full-time office, as they’ll have to pay for more than they need.
Office timesharing solves this problem, as it allows businesses to take an office on a “part-time” basis—by sharing ownership, costs, and usage with other companies. The companies share the usage of the office on a schedule that suits them and split the cost accordingly.
Whilst still in its infancy, this non-traditional approach to taking office space is becoming increasingly popular among businesses, and 12% of London’s providers have expressed their openness to this way of working—such as Work.Life, Kitt, and Runway East.
Discounts and deals:
Whilst not strictly a new way of taking office space, it’s worth mentioning that 67% of workspaces are offering highly competitive deals and discounts right now—meaning you can get a brand new office at a bargain price. 16% of the providers we surveyed are also lowering deposits for new tenants, to help with cashflow.
To secure a good deal, we’d recommend booking a viewing earlier rather than later. Landlords have more availability than usual right now, and the first businesses to act will get the very best rates..! Some providers are even offering discounts of up to 50% off in 2020; get in touch with our advisors to find out more: