The Importance of Flexible Office Spaces in Workplace Strategy

Accelerated by the pandemic, companies and employees have reached an inflection point in redefining how the world of work functions. The days of commuting to the office five days a week and clocking in at 9am and out at 5 (5.30-6.30pm) are disappearing.  

The needs and expectations of both employers and employees are changing rapidly, with new demands for flexibility affecting the search to find and retain talent. At the same time organisations are keen to retain more traditional business values and the benefits of the office environment: the chance to be creative, collaborate, mentor, learn from each other and to build a work culture together.  

The concept of hybrid working isn’t new, but it’s been thrown into the spotlight and with it a myriad of options. No longer is the choice whether to work from home or in the corporate head office, now there are a range of flexible options and office spaces.  

Leaders are asking: “How can flexible office space fit into a portfolio strategy?” And “How will this affect my teams’ experiences, productivity, engagement and performance?” 

Can embedding flexible office space into the workplace ecosystem help companies and their employees find the right balance?  

To explore these questions, Cushman & Wakefield partnered with WeWork to develop a global workplace experience report, surveying 800 people working in WeWork spaces in London, Singapore and New York.   

The survey found that avoiding having to commute was the top motivator to work from home. Chosen by the majority of respondents (61%), it’s no surprise that after two years without the lost time and productivity, not to mention cost of the commute, employees are no longer keen to do it.    

Interestingly, work-life balance is the only common factor cited as a reason to choose to work at either the traditional office, flexible office space, and remote/home, suggesting that each area of office ecosystem has a part to play in supporting work-life balance.  

Whilst people choose to work in flexible offices and traditional company office spaces for similar reasons, including the chance to collaborate, socialise and connect with others, three factors can drive a preference for flexible office spaces.  

The top three reasons employees recommend flexible office space: 

  1. The space feels like an extension of the employee’s traditional office and culture;  
  2. The space supports the employee’s wellbeing; and  
  3. The location offers both the right technology and right spaces for collaboration. 

Earlier this year we went to see the JLL office at 20 Water Street, which is also one of the UKs most sustainable buildings. The office was designed to meet all employee requirements from both a productivity and wellbeing perspective. You can read more about this building in our blog.   

Key takeaways: 

  • Both traditional and flexible offices spaces have appeal to employees who felt they were equally able to focus in both. 
  • Flexible offices came out ahead for collaboration and in supporting energy levels. 
  • Traditional office space is where many feel most motivated. 
  • Unsurprisingly, there’s no one-size fits all approach – employees value opportunities to socialise and connect; execs value flexible spaces for focussed work, and managers are somewhere in the middle. 
  • The data shows flexible offices have proved successful across various industries and that businesses should feel confident making investments in flex as part of their wider office ecosystem.  

The prize goes to choice 

Survey respondents using WeWork spaces indicated that flexible office space appeals to them for the same kinds of reasons as a traditional office does.  

Nearly 50% of survey respondents stated that traditional offices are best suited to getting to know and socialise with colleagues, (32% preferred flexible office space for this reason).   

After avoiding the commute, the second most common reason for choosing remote working is to enjoy greater flexibility (48%). That’s followed by the ability to experience a better work-life balance (chosen by 47% of respondents) and the ability to focus (noted by 40%).  

It is clear giving employees workplace flexibility is essential. 

If employers and employees learned anything during the global pandemic, it’s that work can be effectively performed in spaces outside the traditional office, and employees now seem to be seeking more choice in their work environments. Businesses have proven they can not only survive but even thrive with a dispersed office workforce.  

The data and perspectives provided by the survey strongly suggest that flexible office options can be a valuable component in the diverse office workplace ecosystem, providing employees with the workplace flexibility they now demand.   

You can read the report in full here.  

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

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