Since the world tuned upside down during the turbulent COVID-19 pandemic, flexible workspaces have provided a vital solution for many companies, and I predict that this will only increase in the next year.
We’ve spoken to Flexible Space Association members across the country and based on lessons from hundreds of them, we can see that 2023 is likely to see five major changes to office working.
The 15-minute city is becoming an increasing reality for many
We can see that hybrid offices will evolve as ‘brands’, because hybrid is here to stay.
According to ONS figures, the percentage of people working workers in hybrid roles has grown and, at the same time, the number working from home only, has fallen throughout 2022.
Flexible workspaces can really help individual businesses adapt to benefit from hybrid working, by creating office space that are designed to be shared and can be adapted for different types of businesses on different days of the week.
UNC, which is a member of FlexSA, has even created hUBClub, as a separate brand for its hybrid offices. This shows the growing importance of branding and also that people are now selecting their office spaces based on hybrid working.
Co-workers will move to the next level
The second trend I think we will see grow next year is co-working, which is expected to move to the next level.
As a solution for small businesses and entrepreneurs offering affordable space, a working buzz and ready-made peers, co-working could see desk spaces used in different ways. We could see a trend of providers offering not just day passes, but specific time allocations, including hourly access.
This could be linked to different styles and times of working from early-morning and evening, which can cater for both early birds and night owls.
If customer demand continues to grow, then these flexible spaces will adapt to accommodate a diverse range of people using them at different times of the day and for different lengths of time.
Stopping table hogging
Thirdly, I think we will see a push back from the hospitality industry moving to stop ‘table-hoggers’ and the cliché of people working from coffee shops is being seriously challenged.
Debrett’s – the British professional coaching and etiquette company, has introduced a café etiquette into its world-famous guide this year, to remind people that hospitality businesses need to make money. Stretching out one coffee for several hours while you work is simply not good business practice.
Laptop bans are likely to become increasingly common – my local coffee shop for example introduced one last month.
In 2023, there will be more delineation with dedicated spaces for work – even those attached to cafés – to allow you to get your flat white, but take it to enjoy at a dedicated workstation, not restaurant tables.
The fourth trend we will see next year relate to the use of new technology, which we believe is likely to become accessible to all providers.
Technology used to monitor how spaces are used and the flow of people through a building, and smart technology such as sensors, will become more common and not just an option for the largest operators.
Smaller businesses will use technology to continually adapt their spaces to both increase efficiency and suit a changing workforce. This use of technology will show exactly which parts of their office are regularly used and which could be adapted to increase efficiency.
Work / life balance and the 15 minute commute
Lastly, the 15-minute commute will become increasingly important.
The concept of a 15-minute city in which most necessities can be accomplished each day by either walking or cycling from your home, is becoming an increasing reality for many.
The International Workplace Group (IWG) produced a fascinating study called the ‘15 Minute Commute’ in November 2020. This saw over three quarters (77%) of respondents saying that a place to work closer to home was something that they must have when deciding their next job move.
This idea of an environmentally friendly, sustainable, 15-minute city that is also health-enhancing for its residents is finding support worldwide, as discussions at COP27 in Egypt show.
To address this, new, hyper-local providers have been emerging in smaller town centres and rural areas over the past few years.
As some people return to more standard working arrangements, there have been casualties, but there isn’t a critical volume of hyper-local coverage across the country yet, so it is simply too early to tell if this model will be commercially viable enough to stay part of the flexible workspace mix.
Personally, I’ve never known a time of greater change in workspace design, driven by us all navigating pandemic working, taking on board wholesale change in office behaviour and society’s continued adaptation to the ‘new normal’.
I do know from our members though that the flexible workspace sector is ever ready to innovate, so with fresh financial headwinds, I’m interested to see what surprises 2023 will bring.