Reimagining the office and work-life

 

We are now entering September of 2020, a year with monumental paradigm shifts across all sectors of industry and society. As businesses fight to adjust to the new playing field of economic restrictions and shifting social attitudes, a key question has emerged as to whether or not the new norm of remote working is viable and sustainable. In short – what are businesses gaining and what are they losing under these conditions? And furthermore, what new patterns of work patterns are people coming to anticipate as the new norm?

Perhaps one of the most insightful looks at the landscape of the current workplace mood can be revealed from a recent survey taken by the UK-based Founders Forum. While the survey identified that 90% of workers were „able to accomplish the majority of their work remotely“, the same survey identified that only 9% would never feel comfortable returning to the office. This is not entirely a paradox – even while startup respondents found that the majority of their work could be accomplished remotely, it leaves open the possibility of a good amount of work that is preferred to be done in an office or coworking space, or even a desire to simply return to the office to be amongst their peers and colleagues.

 

Also telling from the Founders Forum survey is that only 12% of respondents indicated that they would prefer to return to a 5-day work week, with the majority preferring some hybrid or reduced in-office format. As the coronavirus has exposed both the joys and struggles of working remotely, the one indisputable shift is that flexibility for either function has remained a dominant trend: in other words, workers still want to come into the office on occasion, but also have the freedom to demand their own schedule or thus not be mandated by their employers to do so. As such, the benefits of office life are far from forgotten, but the emphasis on flexibility and freedom is elevated.

 

Future of On-Demand Locations

This availability of flexible office space comes as a benefit for both startups and larger corporations alike. As companies are finding their rhythm with the new pace of remote work, they are identifying the extent of corporate space that is necessary to run a functional business, and will be finding areas where space can be consolidated. This transformation of the real estate landscape for businesses allows for an increased demand for coworking spaces, especially as businesses are opting to end their leases. CNBC reported that in the US, “InMay, CBRE was predicting about a 7% drop in office rents per square foot from the first quarter to the fourth quarter.It expected vacancy rates to rise as high as 14.9% in the first quarter of 2021, up from 12.3% in the first three months of 2020. “ Similar trends are being seen in European markets, providing European coworking spaces with a fresh influx of potential users and occupants.

 

Transforming roles and functions

As the transformation in workplace expectations progresses, businesses will also have the opportunity to assess how they define their work processes. One McKinsey study summarizes work functions across 4 different tasks:

● fully remote (net positive value-creating outcome)

● hybrid remote (net neutral outcome)

● hybrid remote by exception (net negative outcome but can be done remotely if needed

● on-site (not eligible for remote work)

 

As businesses redefine their workstreams they may have to identify creative solutions that limit physical office presence, but inevitably some functions will still require in-person meetings. As a result, the future of work and the “new normal” will include a greater emphasis on coworking spaces as a resource to fill ad-hoc demands. Indeed, this has already been a growing trend even prior to COVID-19 as “before the crisis, flexible space solutions held about 3 percent of the US office market. Their share had been growing at 25 percent annually for the past five years, so flexibility was already in the works. “  This trend is only likely to increase, and in the coming years, an exciting new phase of growth lies on the horizon for coworking locations.

 

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