2018: The Year Flexible Workspaces
Are Officially Considered Mainstream

David Jenkins

The flexible office workspace — with its human approach to design and its encouragement of natural light, plant life, flat screens, healthy snacks, and even office dogs — was once considered a fad, but no more. As of this year, it’s an official, thriving industry that’s here to stay. The younger workforce is helping to mainstream it, ultimately changing the way people work and the way real estate is presented and marketed.

In fact, the term “flexible workspace” may no longer even be referred to as a “thing,” as this type of work life and environment becomes the new normal. The office revolution has killed the cubicle and evolved the nature of innovation, creativity, productivity and interaction.

Flexible workspace is no longer considered an amenity or an alternative. It’s expected and preferred by the younger workforce, commonly known as Millennials. Companies are responding in kind, in order to attract and retain talent. Billions of dollars are being spent on taking the office from the days of Mad Men to the present reality and mentality of Silicon Valley. That means no more corner offices, dull break rooms or soul-crushing artificial light.

Those using flexible workspace are enjoying higher levels of productivity, better business opportunities, and improved work environments, according to research conducted by The Instant Group and HLW. In the study, 71 percent of users agreed that workplaces have a positive effect on how they engage with work, with four in five citing higher productivity levels and engagement. Over the last five-to-ten years, 86 percent have benefitted from enhanced work environments.

2017 saw the largest growth in the coworking office trend, producing highs in square footage and members.  Wun (a Yardi company) estimatesthat 50 percent of the population will be working independently by 2020, and the demand for shared space will continue to rise. The website describes coworking as “a symbol of community, connectivity, efficiency, and networking.”

What started as an innovative alternative for startups and entrepreneurs is now becoming non-negotiable for Fortune 500 media and tech companies. The largest benefit of these coworking spaces: better access to innovations and younger talent at reduced leasing costs. It’s win-win: startups and small businesses are benefiting from being in a space where they can get connected and get noticed.

According to Entrepreneur, corporations are forming partnerships with coworking spaces so that they can have better access to talent and innovation. The move also serves to monitor competition.

The workplace is not only changing physically, but psychologically. The younger workforce has a different perception of how an office should look and feel; the biggest change is the perception that, now, an office should serve the worker and not the other way around.

That mindset has absolutely nothing to do with cubicles, executive offices, and hierarchies. The solution: configurable, turnkey spaces, more open, homier-looking design, and more flexible leases.

The line between work and home continues to blur. Companies like WeWork are combining work space and living space so that employees can more easily adapt to the live/work/play lifestyle.

As competition for younger workers increases, Millennials are demanding more perks that go beyond free lemon water and a ping-pong table. The Harvard Business Review found that the most in-demand perks include company-paid health insurance, student loan assistance and parental leave. Other heavily considered perks that would tip the scale in favor of a job: unlimited vacation (68%), free gym membership (39%), and company-wide retreats (29%).

Not only are offices going “flex,’ but so are workers’ schedules. A Gallup survey reported that 51 percent of employees would change jobs for one that would allow them to work more flexible hours; 37 percent would change jobs if they could work from where they wanted, at least part of the time.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking flex work schedules in 1985, when it was almost unheard of. 2018 may be the year that the workspaces that serve this flex time goes mainstream.

A recent NPR/Marist poll found that one in five jobs in America is held by a contract worker. In a 2017 CNN Money article, Intuit CEO Brad Smith predicted that 43 percent of the workforce will be free agents by 2020.

A study by Jive Communications found that 37 percent of Millennials claimed that a job with flexible hours is “essential.” A quarter of those surveyed claimed to be unhappy — and have even quit their jobs — because they were not offered an option for a flexible work schedule. Nearly one-third of those surveyed stated that they would be unhappy if a company did not allow for remote working.

The feeling is nothing new, but the reality is: employees want more control over both their personal and work lives, with more flexibility and choice over where and how they work.

So much for the 9-5 rat race.


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David Jenkins is Vice President, Capital Project Manager Washington, DC.  Mr. Jenkins is responsible for providing all capital project implementation for all new acquisitions and existing assets, in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast and Ohio. His responsibilities include managing all aspects of building repositioning, development and large scale tenant build-outs.