Published on 24 Feb 2020

Blurring the lines between flexible and conventional offices


Where do you draw the line between a flexible office and a conventional office? There used to be a clear answer to that question.

A conventional office was a 10-25+ year lease for a larger space, normally starting with a blank canvas (Category A condition) and a requirement on the occupier to deliver and operate the space. A flexible office was a comparatively newer leasing arrangement offering pre-fitted space and inclusive rent (probably on a per-desk basis) for the short term.

In 2020 that line is no longer so clear.

While more and more serviced office models are springing up to meet different aspects of customer demand, more and more conventional offices are being offered with shorter term leases and designed with flexible-inspired amenities.

The gap between flexible and conventional is being filled at pace and future office customers will benefit from an unprecedented level of choice.

The flexible revolution

In recent years, flexible offices have rapidly grown and established a firm foothold in the office market.

From 2014 to 2018, the number of flexible workplaces grew by 205%, and the number of operators grew by 135%, according to Colliers’ report.

This trend has been seen worldwide, but no more so than in London, where one of the world’s largest and most diverse flexible workspace markets has taken shape. 5.1% of Central London office space was occupied by flexible workspace by 2019, according to the same report.

The serviced office market is not just growing, it’s diversifying. From pay-per-desk-per-month co-working offices, to self-contained, pre-fit, serviced office spaces that can be leased for one to three years, more flexible models means more choice for office customers.

There are providers who distinguish themselves through the post-work networking opportunities and lunchtime events they run for members. Providers who put an emphasis on the design of their spaces, employing circadian lighting and biophilia to heighten the productivity and happiness of their customers. And providers such as Myo (our flexible office brand) that break the mould of pre-fit spaces by allowing each customer to customise their office to fit their business’s brand and their team’s unique needs.

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This diverse serviced office market offers a wealth of choice and benefits to businesses of all sizes.

Larger businesses can quickly create temporary project spaces, cater for office overflow from their headquarters, and provide different spaces that appeal to different kinds of people.

Growing businesses can commit to office space for a shorter period and flex to their changing desk requirements. At the same time, they can give their employees access to spaces optimised for productivity - supported by a high level of service - without the need to hire the office-specialist roles needed to make that possible.

Is the future of consumer office space flexible or conventional? It’s what the customer wants

As flexible offices and co-working have grown in popularity, customer expectations are changing, driven by employee expectations and the demands of their employers. Office providers are innovating to keep up, creating two parallel streams of office transformation:

1) Conventional designs inspired by the appeal of flexible spaces

We’re hearing that our office customers want access to the kind of communal, informal space which is a staple of innovative, “cool” flexible offices. To retain their staff and attract new talent, businesses want to learn from and replicate the unconventional but inspired appeal of co-working environments.

This has sparked a shift in the way we’ve designed conventional office space over the past decade, increasingly incorporating activity-based-working into our design vision for Category A and Fitted spaces, just as we did when designing our own headquarters.

To meet that demand in our existing offices, we’ve re-fitted a number of spaces with communal lounges designed to facilitate agile working and encourage collaboration. Customer perceptions are continually evolving, and they want their offices to evolve with them.

2) Flexible offerings with the advantages of conventional models

At the headquarters of large corporations, it’s commonplace to see dedicated office-specialist teams who fine-tune the office environment, staff perks and employee wellbeing. Now, smaller businesses occupying flexible space are asking for those “big business” benefits and, within their all-inclusive fee, they’re getting them.

Convenience and quality without compromise is the benchmark for flexible offerings.

We learned that Myo customers wanted shorter term leases, the ability to flex to business requirements and well-designed communal space in a prime location. But, we also heard that they wanted their leases to align to their 1-3 year business planning cycle, and that they wanted their office to reflect their brand and their culture.

We give Myo customers the choice of three design templates for their office. We then guide Myo customers through the rest of their workspace design journey – meeting their individual needs for meeting rooms, video conferencing, private offices, standing desks, and much more.

Meeting changing customer needs

The office market is shifting to be more customer-centric and so is our strategy for delivering the best office experience.

Our ongoing development at Dashwood House is just one example of this, which we’re designing to meet a range of customer needs within one building. The reception has been transformed to include a lounge and cafe area and as well as traditional Category A office space, we are developing plans for a new Myo location, and turn-key fitted space ready to occupy (which we’ll tell you more about in the coming months).

Where do you draw the line between a flexible office and a conventional office? That question is no longer relevant.

As flexible offices continue to shake up the office market, customer needs will continue to evolve. It’s by designing different models and environments to suit these unique needs, with a hospitality and service-driven mindset, that we will shape the near-future of consumer offices.