So what is a flexible workspace?
The story starts with coworking. Coworking spaces have traditionally offered a central open space surrounded by small private offices. As large organizations have expressed interest in joining, coworking spaces have begun to offer large private office space for rent as well. These large private offices are adjoined by a shared central area that houses conference rooms, lounges, and amenities. Workbar, for example, recently opened such a flexible workspace in Burlington, with private offices that can accommodate up to 40 people. Let’s look at the benefits of these flexible spaces.
Agility is becoming increasingly important to cater to evolving customer and market expectations. Companies are dynamically shifting their priorities, and correspondingly need to align their workforce and the places from which they work. Flexible workspaces have emerged as an effective solution for organizations to be agile with their workplace needs.
One of the driving appeals of flexible spaces is lease flexibility. Rather than signing up for a 5-year lease, organizations can join for much shorter durations. This enables organizations to dynamically vary their space in conjunction with changes in their projects. For example, it can enable a company to place a project team near target markets for a short duration.
Additional immediate benefits of a flexible space originate from their service model. The flexible space now performs many of the tasks traditionally taken on by the occupier. These include space design, facilities management, and provision of amenities. Flexible spaces can be thought of as turnkey solutions. But the advantages don’t stop there.
In addition to operational efficiencies, there are several strategic benefits to joining a flexible space. Thought leaders have grouped them in three categories. The first category encompasses the opportunities to pilot organizational transformation. The second category describes the potential for stimulating innovation. The third category covers the advantages of increased visibility. So let’s dive in.
What are the strategic benefits to joining a flexible space?
New ways of working
A flexible space can operate as a stage for organizations to pilot new ways of working. An immediately obvious trial is that of a new layout. Flexible spaces like Workbar have embraced the activity-based-working model, which provides different zones for different types of work. This model has been shown to improve health and job satisfaction. Beyond the benefits to those working in the space, offering modern layouts can also attract talent.
In addition, flexible spaces can give rise to organizational change. Physically separated from the rest of an organization, they provide a great setting to intentionally design and pilot a new culture. This culture can then be disseminated back to the parent organization, especially through practices like rotating teams.
Flexible spaces are a great setting for stimulating innovation within an organization. Sharing the space with startups, freelancers, and other companies enables organizations to increase exposure to different ideas and ways of thinking. An organization can maximize the potential for such cross-pollination by intentionally selecting a flexible space based on the current occupants.
So how can such cross-pollination take place? One way is through serendipitous encounters in kitchen and coffee areas. Organizations should not leave it only up to chance, however. There are intentional ways to foster exchange of ideas. One way is to organize hackathons with occupants. Another is for community managers to connect related occupants.
Working from a flexible space increases the visibility of an organization. This can have several benefits. Within the same space itself, it creates networking benefits. It can lead to meeting and hiring freelancers. It can be a way to meet candidates for hiring. It can also lead to new customers and collaborators. Here again, considering the other occupants when choosing a space can maximize the opportunities to benefit.
At Workbar, there are a variety of companies that work out of multiple locations in and around Greater Boston. At Back Bay, TravelPirates curates vacation deals, Univision creates spanish-language television programming, and Atiim develops a goal management tool. At Burlington, MongoDB offers data management solutions, and Neuro-Flash provides an AI marketing insights platform. And it doesn’t stop there.
Workbar also plays host to a range of freelance individuals and small companies. In Cambridge, I work next to writers, immigration lawyers, and sustainability consultants. Beyond Cambridge, there are graphic designers, marketing constants, and academic researchers. These can be valuable resources for a variety of objectives. Writers, for example, can be tapped to help build content. Similarly, graphic designers can be hired to build a visual identity.
Looking beyond collaboration, joining a flexible space is also an opportunity for brand-building. This can take place through several media. On the visual end, organizations have an opportunity to place branding materials inside the space. On the face-to-face end, companies can spread the word through informal conversations in shared areas, and by hosting events. The buzz created as a result is sure to make it out.
Bringing it home
For medium and large organizations, joining flexible workplaces has benefits ranging from improved agility to increased visibility. To unlock the full range of these benefits, organizations must think beyond lease terms. They must also consider the other occupants of the space, and make a conscious effort to build connections once there. So if you’re operating in and around Greater Boston, consider joining Workbar!
About Tobias Froehlic
Tobias Froehlich is a workplace consultant. He applies design strategy principles to enhance the workplace experience with organizations in and around Boston. Visit his website to learn more.