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Flex Space: Merging Architecture and Technology

Posted By Bella Pace | Aug 29, 2021 9:00 AM
Flex Space: Merging Architecture and Technology

The COVID-19 pandemic solidified the importance of hybrid work models for most companies, with varied approaches and results across the board. While some notice their productivity increases when they work from home, it can be at the expense of their workplace culture and employees’ well-being. At the same time, business leaders such as Boston Properties CEO Owen Thomas cite the office space as essential to a company’s success. 

Though the office remains top of mind for industry leaders, speculation surrounding its role in the future of the workplace is a significant obstacle. A myriad of different opinions on the office flood social media and news outlets every day. Perhaps the one thing we can bet on is the need for more diverse, flexible office space in order to retain and attract modern tenants. 

More and more tenants expect flexibility where they work, be it through policy or the physical environment itself. To rise to this challenge, we’ve seen a renewed focus on hospitable office experiences, influenced by hybrid hospitality trends in commercial real estate (CRE). In practice, hospitality at the workplace has given rise to technology-enabled flex space trends— a term, short for flexible, used to explain how the office can be reconfigured to appeal to a variety of different functions and tenants. New data supports this shift: JLL predicts that 30% of all CRE space will be flex space by 2030. 

How Can We Define Flexible Spaces

While some may associate the term flex space with coworking, the work model consists of  so much more. Flexible spaces have evolved to incorporate a wide range of ready-to-use workspace configurations that serve as a community resource for businesses and individual customers. 

In essence, true flexible spaces can be achieved by balancing physical office design with the technology that powers it. Peter Knutson, Chief Strategy Officer at Architecture Plus Information, articulated this balancing act on The Let’s Go Show podcast last week: “Any space we create that is a space for the engagement of more than one person has to be technologically considered at the same time.” 

His team strives to seamlessly fuse office design with technology, and as a result, they are able to create more interconnected, flexible work environments. 

What Do Flex Spaces Look Like?

With the new role of the physical office supporting in-person collaboration, offering shared spaces within a given building or business park enables employees to work and connect in new ways. By offering a cultural hub away from their kitchen table or living room, employees can get the benefits of in-person socialization in the office to further innovation and achieve their best work. 

Here are just a few examples of what flexible spaces can look like in practice: 

  • Private suites are dedicated, managed spaces of varying sizes that occupants can lease for short periods of time. A flexible lease can help tenants who need temporary work environments as they determine their next move — all while still benefiting from an office building’s conveniences such as internet access, catering, resources, and more.
  • Shared amenity spaces are used by companies to retain their identity and branding while also reaping the benefits of optionality from a more hybrid work environment. Amenity spaces such as shared conference rooms, or onsite cafes offer welcome alternatives to traditional work environments. 
  • On-site events spaces can be used to facilitate services and commerce with on-site office retail such as catering, dry cleaning, or other provisions that tenants can’t find at home. Hosting events in these spaces can also present the opportunity to bolster company culture and cohesion.
  • Enterprise offerings are similar to private suites but on a much larger scale. This category is broad, and can include the following: shared rooms or floors within a larger building community, individual satellite offices, and even larger hub-and-spoke models. These options enable companies to work flexibly, both in the office and at work-near-home locations. 

Enabling Flex Space Through Technology

Though these examples may present value in an office on their own, their worth increases tenfold when they are powered by office technology, such as a tenant experience platform. After all, new spaces within an office only provide value if tenant employees know they exist and how to access them.

Equipped with tenant experience technology, tenants can reserve a space within their building that meets their needs right from their smartphones. This accessibility creates a seamless workplace experience for tenants, and can help gather meaningful data that property teams can use benchmarking purposes. Engagement data from certain amenities can help compare building offerings and services to nearby offices, allowing them to showcase their most desirable features to prospective tenants in the future.

Offering more flexible and tech-enabled workplace experiences will ultimately bring value back to the office, entice people to use your property, and differentiate your landlord brand from your neighbors. Learn how your portfolio can become as tech-enabled and adaptable as the surrounding workforce today in our latest guide

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