Flex Webinar Recap: Key Themes to Watch

by | 05 June 2020

Last week, more than 1,100 attendees tuned into our first-ever Flex Talks webinar (recording), that featured C-suite leaders including:

  • Wayne Berger, CEO, Americas, IWG
  • Ryan Simonetti, Co-Founder & CEO, Convene
  • Beth Moore, Head of U.S. Portfolio Sales, WeWork
  • Jamie Hodari, Co-Founder & CEO, Industrious
  • Thais Galli, Managing Director, Head of Studio, Tishman Speyer
  • John Arenas, CEO, Serendipity Labs

The topic proved to be a timely discussion with these industry-leading experts at a moment when the flexible workspace industry is at a crossroads in its evolution given the COVID-19 pandemic. We identified four key themes that emerged from our expert panel.

“These last two months have really started to accelerate what we’re seeing as embedded foundational trends in real changes with how, what, where, when and why people call work.”

Wayne Berger, IWG

Choice-Based Work Will Become the Norm

As remote work has become the new way of working over the last few months, conventional wisdom dictating where and how people work has been upended.

The pandemic has raised new questions about how occupiers could be thinking more progressively about the role the workplace plays in supporting the enterprise. These times are illustrative of the different needs of every worker. No longer will a traditional office-based approach to providing real estate meet the needs of employees.

“The key in the coming years is going to be real estate solutions that honor the differences between employees; it’s pretty clear what that is…it’s work from anywhere.”

Jamie Hodari, Industrious

In many ways, the pandemic has become a great equalizer for remote workers. Remote workers no longer struggle to carry the same equity in conversations and decision making as their in-office counterparts — and they no longer feel subordinate to their office-focused counterparts.

Office-based employees are now hoping this collective experience will accelerate their own access to more remote-working options. Most widely circulated surveys including Colliers’ recent Remote Work Survey noted that 80% of respondents said they would like to work from home at least one day a week. In light of this, it will likely be incumbent upon companies to enable their employees to work from a more diverse range of settings.

This will call for more optionality and choice of offices.  Many predict the concept of office centricity is coming to an end, and a new era of choice-based work will drive the future.

Distributed Networks Will Drive Real Estate Strategy

 In order to facilitate a choice-based working strategy, occupiers must transition from a fixed/traditional portfolio composition to a more agile, distributed portfolio approach. At the center of the new optimized real estate strategy are the tenets of flexibility and choice.

The panelists identified a tapestry approach that can be accomplished through a varying mix of:

  • HQs – flagship offices (the ‘hubs’) in key markets that facilitate large gatherings, meetings, group-based work, and are designed to express a company’s culture.
  • Satellites – regional and suburban offices (the ‘spokes’) that enable small- to medium-sized teams to work together and avoid long commutes.

“People realize that working from home is not a panacea. And in fact, it’s really quite difficult to do. They are looking to escape the home office, to have a place close to home, but not at home that avoids a commute.”

John Arenas, Serendipity Labs

  • Flex/On-Demand Spaces – network access to on-demand flex/coworking spaces for individuals or small groups to book as needed for the hour, day or week.
  • Work from Home / Virtual – telecommuting technology and infrastructure that enables employees to work productively at home.

A key tactic will be to align the business demands for types of space to supply and workplace strategies in order to provide the appropriate balance between fixed, variable and remote work.

The Integration of Workplace Platforms

 The speakers suggested that future workplace will be about creating a set of consistent experiences across HQs, satellite offices, drop-in spaces and work-from-home options. Whether it is through the bundling of spaces or workplace services, operators are focused on fostering harmony across these different workplace types. This will form the basis for a platform that provides accommodations for multiple types of spaces.

“The future is hybrid. It’s no longer enough to run physical spaces well – you need to bring that premium experience to the digital world, so employees stay engaged no matter where they are.”

Ryan Simonetti, Convene

What this could mean for…

 Building Owners: A single operator might seek to deliver the full stack of meeting spaces, coworking spaces, flex spaces and other amenity spaces.

“It’s key for us to be able to provide a single point of contact that helps companies analyze their portfolio and think through how to move from flex to traditional and back to flex as things change.”

Thais Galli, Tishman Speyer

Employers: A workplace platform based on a diverse set of options that align to employee and business needs. The options in aggregate, will provide for both physical workspaces and virtual office services.

Employees: A unified workplace platform to access workplace services and, if needed, book on-demand space.

Adequate Healthy and Safe Spaces Will be the New Premium

For the foreseeable future, high standards for health and safety will be commonplace in order to stay competitive for workspace providers. Integrated partnerships between building owners and workspace operators will be critical to establishing a clean and healthy user experience.

Flexible workspace operators which were previously focused on providing impactful cost savings through more densely allocated spaces are now focused on de-densifying their workspaces, with many reducing capacity levels for certain work areas by as much as 50%.

Wellbeing initiatives will now be emphasized and seen as differentiators in supporting the workplace community. Health and safety initiatives will include heightened levels of cleaning/sanitation, ventilation, social distancing, and now select mental health services to members. As occupiers plan for re-entry, strong health and safety measures will be baseline necessities for operators.

“People are going to have baseline expectations around what coming back into the office looks like and what they should expect from their employers or workspace providers.”

Beth Moore, WeWork

Conclusion

Choice, distributed options, an integrated platform and commitment to providing a safe environment will be dominant trends for corporate real estate professionals to plan and manage over the near-to medium-term.

While there is still much uncertainty about a clear path to move forward, it appears likely that flexibility and employee demand can be accomplished through a multi-dimensional approach to portfolio strategy including more deliberate partnerships with large, integrated flexible workspace operators.

About the Author:

Francesco De Camilli leads Colliers’ Flexible Workplace Consulting for Occupier Services in the Americas by providing multi-market advisory on flex solutions in one of the fastest growing industry sectors in commercial real estate. As an expert, he helps drive enterprising solutions for Colliers clients, as well as builds relationships with operators on a national platform level.

 

 

 

Jonathan Wright leads Colliers’ Flexible Workplace Consulting throughout the Asia Pacific market; he founded this business line in 2016 to support our occupier, operator and asset owner clients in leveraging the growing and dynamic sector.

 

 

 

Tom Sleigh joined Colliers in 2019 as Head of Flexible Workplace Consultancy in the EMEA region. He supports occupier clients in the execution of their flexible workspace strategy and requirements, in addition to advising flexible operators on their expansion strategy throughout EMEA.