Flex Space

Business follows the path of least resistance – like electricity or a river; it will find a way to get where it’s going. You business environment, the real estate you choose for your employees and clients, can provide resistance to business.

Employees are Clients

There are many and varying philosophical views on the worker-employer relationship, but a one in particular is rising in popularity – that employees are customers, transacting skills and expertise, knowledge for resources – rather than servants that get the job done with whatever tools are laying about.

Suddenly the need for a flowing and productive work environment is clear and apparent – bad lighting, cramped conditions, interruptions, network connectivity issues, and a whole slew of intangible or unpredictable factors can hinder your business’s productivity.

The economy and talent will follow the path of least resistance, the best route for business. Flexibility, agility in real estate decision-making processes, is becoming a major force in today’s corporate culture.

This applies to what every commercial tenant does – anyone with business real estate has to consider what tools, changes or additions to their real estate strategy can be set-up and influenced by flexibility.

What is flex space?

Flex space for business is a growing trend – in limited markets. However, those limited markets (about 8 cities in the United States) account for 80% of flex space available and is one of the fastest growing lessee categories.

Imagine an office you only paid for when you used it. Flex business spaces come in many flavors, shapes and sizes – that includes features and furnishings as well. Right here in Madison, WI, there are at least two co-working spaces (Matrix Collaborative Business Solutions and 101 State).

In a nutshell, flex space is a co-working environment where people set up shop for a day, week, month, etc. The location provides utilities, connectivity, desks – even conference rooms, and you only pay for what you use.

My personal observation of real estate for companies is that leasing long term is in direct conflict with the realities of many businesses. Work is project orientated instead of process orientated (think accounts payable and receivable departments handling checks 15 years ago) thanks to the power of computing systems and product life cycles are shorter than ever (how many have a 3 year old cell phone in their pocket?). According to the Bureau of Labor Statics – Employee Tenure Summary published in September of 2014, the median tenure for employment with the same company is at about 4.5 years. Mobility and flexibility are not here to stay, they are gaining momentum and I believe this trend will continue to accelerate as more people work for organizations as freelance or project employees (in 2014, 42 million people fit this labor category). So when leasing for ten-year terms, the strategy needs to be focused more on flexibility than rigid, hard walls, and dedicated rooms. Change is the only certainty and the direction is towards using less to create more.

More established businesses might think they have more elaborate needs – but flexibility in utilities (power, Internet connectivity) and environment are essential, much of the rest is cultural and hierarchal. Including flexibility – however you define it – in your business real estate strategy is not only a part of planning for future growth and change, but a necessity in today’s business landscape.

It is easy to locate flex space alternatives on your own by simply searching the Web, if you would like to learn more about using flex concepts in your own facilities contact Brian Schwellinger at RE Workplace.

Written by RE Workplace