Why would anyone want to share an office space? Well, there are actually many good reasons. It used to be a smart, economical solution for entrepreneurs, start-ups and young professionals, but now there are companies dedicated to leasing spaces to all sorts of workers who need both structure and flexibility.
Thanks to technology–and a desire for more elastic work options–many professionals and businesses are taking advantage of shared office spaces. As such, facilities managers must cater to this shift by providing a great employee experience to a dynamic workforce.
Shared office spaces will gain popularity
A shared office space is a workplace rented for many people. While a freelancer or sole entrepreneur may rent a single workspace, a start-up or small company may rent shared office space to bring its entire team together. This allows the team to work collaboratively without requiring the business to make a significant investment in a long-term lease.
Shared office spaces are more accessible to companies who don’t have a lot of money to spend, and they often come with printers, computers, meeting rooms, comfy chairs, etc.
JLL, an established global commercial real estate services company, released a 2020 report that explored how traditional workspaces will evolve in light of the pandemic. The report predicts that about 30% of all office space will be “consumed flexibly by 2030.” Once the workforce begins returning to the office on a regular basis, business continuity and operational resilience will come to the forefront for tenants, states the report.
Flexible space operators that withstand the challenges of the pandemic will need to start thinking about the new normal in the workplace, and be prepared for an increase in demand. Flexible space is quick and easy to acquire, and tenants will use it for satellite offices that reduce commute times. Moreover, economic uncertainty will likely trigger portfolio reductions and cost-saving strategies for some time. Flexible offices can help support these enterprise goals, at least on a short-term basis.
The growing interest in shared space will push commercial real estate developers to rethink how they invest in their properties. Cubicles won’t cut it anymore for most companies. Collaboration and flexibility are expected to be top priorities for developers since those features will become more important to tenants.
Shared workspaces will become more popular, too
Shared workspaces (sometimes referred to as co-working spaces) are workstations that are available to employees who may not have a central office, or who don’t want to work at home, but also don’t want to go into the office.
Shared workspace setups are not all the same. Hot desks, for example, operate on a first-come, first-served basis. However, some floors or sections may have offices or desks that are available for private use; only one person has the option to use that space. What links the diverse shared workspace options are flexible, affordable leases.
Hot desking vs. desk hoteling
Hot desking is a system that allows employees to select an open desk instead of working from the same assigned desk every day. Hot desking uses a first-come, first-served structure. If you come into the office and see an open desk, it’s safe to assume that it’s available. While this system can be employed by any company (not just shared office spaces) it’s much harder to track real-time availability. For example, if an employee intended to work at a certain desk all day, but was called into a meeting as soon as they arrived, someone else might take that spot. This may create some unwanted conflict or frustration.
Desk hoteling requires staff to reserve a desk through some sort of software or online system that’s used company-wide. The employee selects the desk they want ahead of time so that there is no confusion about who is working where once they arrive at the office. Desk hoteling helps keep teams organized, and ensures offices don’t become overcrowded.
Facilities managers will want to focus on communication and collaboration
A crucial part of a facilities manager’s job is to create a workplace environment where employees feel like they can do their best work. They will need to organize and maintain offices that allow for easy collaboration and communication.
Without clear communication and opportunities to collaborate, productivity will almost certainly take a hit. Employees that can sit in proximity to the people they work closest with, will help improve the flow of information and allow workers to get the answers they need almost instantaneously. Teams will also work more effectively if they have a meeting room that they can access for brainstorming sessions and group projects. Not only does this help the team that needs to collaborate, but it allows the other members of the company to work in peace. Not everyone wants or needs to hear a team meeting, and loud talking can actually be disruptive to people who need a quiet work environment.
Have a variety of desks available
Every employee has different needs and preferences. A sales representative will be on the phone for much of their day while a developer will work better if they have access to multiple monitors. The point here is that creating a flexible work environment means creating different workspaces for different needs. Some team members will be talking a lot; others will need quiet spaces. A dynamic shared office can balance multiple roles at the same time.
Desk hoteling or hot desking can make it easier for employees to connect with the space that suits them best. Having descriptions for each workspace will help staff find exactly what they need.
Combine virtual tools with quality customer service
Services commonly seen in the hospitality industry are now increasingly in demand in workplaces, wrote the New York Times. While IWMS technology allows many people who assume different roles to stay connected using a centralized platform, tenants of shared office spaces still want help with administrative tasks. As a facilities manager, that might mean hiring an office manager, or someone to attend to the front desk. That also means facilities managers need to make themselves available to their tenants. Short-term renters need more communication, not less, since they will be unfamiliar with where supplies are stored or what to do if something in the office breaks down.
Create opportunities for connections
When you have a building that caters to multiple businesses, there’s a good chance that at least a couple of them will be able to help each other in one way or another. Some shared office providers are trying to offer a sense of community to their tenants in addition to flexible workspaces.
For example, a facilities manager may find that it is not entirely feasible from a financial standpoint to work exclusively with small, month-to-month renters. Instead, they could seek out a few larger tenants to provide some predictable income, and still welcome month-to-month renters to fill the remaining offices. When showing the new tenants around, the manager should capitalize on the opportunity to introduce tenants who have businesses that could work together. This simple step may have a long-lasting impact for both the facilities manager and the tenants.
The flexible workforce is already here. Although flexible office spaces have been significantly impacted as of recent, demand is expected to surge as more people return to hybrid work models. Managers are encouraged to keep these points in mind as they prepare for new and returning tenants.