The number of SMEs embracing the flexible workspace has increased significantly over the last twelve months with demand in January 2017 reaching record levels, 25% up on the previous year.
More businesses are now realising the benefits of co-working and sharing workspaces with other companies. This demand is particularly strong in suburban locations such as Croydon and Ealing where we are seeing double the level of growth than in central London.
Flexible workspace such as co-working or serviced offices allow companies to adopt a more agile way of working with the ability to scale up or down in line with business performance. Spaces such as this now provide high spec facilities that are both cost–effective and professional, offering a collaborative space with areas for client meetings without the excessive overheads associated with renting traditional office space. The type of space that a business procures, therefore, is a critical decision and is pertinent to firms of all sizes.
Start-ups and entrepreneurs adopt flexible spaces as it leaves them free to focus their efforts on the core business as well as having accurate monthly costs that stay in line with the business plan. They want to be able to focus on getting their business off the ground. But we are also starting to see an increase from larger corporates (25 + desks). Bigger firms want to keep themselves agile and relevant to a changing workforce; flexible space allows them to do this, providing a way to hedge against a backdrop of economic and market uncertainty, while attracting the ever-growing army of contingent workers.
Not only that, but it also appeals to workers who would rather be at an office that is closer to home, without the hassle of a long commute to more central locations. Working in a more flexible environment has a pronounced effect on an employee’s performance levels and job satisfaction. A recent co-working survey from Deskmag found that 71% of co-workers find they are more creative in a co-working space and 68% are better able to focus and complete tasks in a timelier manner.
Sharing workspace also provides businesses with the opportunity to work alongside like-minded people in similar industries and build a community which allows them to connect and collaborate on a professional level, sharing knowledge and brainstorming. We find they often develop an informal business referral network among the other occupiers and, increasingly, we are finding bigger businesses doing this too. Larger firms in co-working spaces can meet other, potentially symbiotic firms, and work with experts in their field. The bigger co-working centres in central London are full of examples of such joint projects.
In effect, co-working spaces can become a pool of talent that can lead to mutually beneficial relationships for all occupying businesses helping them to grow even further. With business development being one of the biggest challenges for firms of all sizes, this network of potential contacts proves to be a significant incentive.
After staff salaries, the largest cost to most businesses is their office space and Instant comes across many firms looking for flexible alternatives to the conventional commercial real estate model. Flexible office space provides a solution to the challenges posed by the changing nature of work and the choices of the modern worker and advances in cloud technology is making this easier to manage effectively. It allows SMEs and their staff more freedom to work in convenient locations as well as the benefits of being able to scale up and down depending on activity levels.
By Tim Rodber, CEO, The Instant Group