Using Flexible Workspace in the Post-Pandemic World
As the name implies, there are many different ways to use flexible workspace, and COVID-19 has caused people who hadn’t previously seriously considered it to take a new look.
In March, when the pandemic blew up, many of us were suddenly forced to work from home. A lot of people had some experience with it, but NOBODY had ever tried to work from home with the whole family, roommates, dogs/cats in attendance 24/7. There are some hilarious videos and stories online as we all navigated those uncharted waters.
Even with the frustration and growing pains, most people found the overall experience to be positive. Being closer to home and cutting out the dreaded commute are the most-cited reasons people have for loving the work-from-home experience, but they also have greater choice and feel more empowered by the control they had over their work life.
“The patterns that are starting to emerge [from COVID] include flexibility, and choice is actually being given to employees, right? So there’s a paradigm shift in terms of employee empowerment, which I think is extraordinary and very advantageous for humanity, for the planet, and for workers.”
Big businesses embraces remote work
This new environment has compelling applications for large companies. In May, Nationwide Insurance announced that its COVID-related work from home setup was so successful it would permanently shut five of its major offices around the country. Twitter made waves when it announced that employees who wanted could permanently work from home moving forward. And Facebook has projected that half its staff will operate remotely in the post-pandemic world.
Like smaller businesses, larger firms would enjoy savings on real estate costs. The flexibility inherent in the model also allows for agility in our uncertain environment. Still, collaboration will be an important part of working in larger organizations, so those companies will have to find spaces for employees to gather either virtually or physically as needed.
In the short term, the traditional co-working space, with its hot desks and bustling common areas, probably won’t have a place in American office life. Those flexible workspace models who already emphasize private offices over the open plan – like my brand, Office Evolution – are well-positioned to add value now. You can safely best that those companies who have had open plans will be, and are, installing plexiglass barriers and taking other measures to provide their clients a safer environment.
Real-World Case Studies
In my center in the East Bay Area of San Francisco, we have seen many examples of professions finding our flexible services to be exactly what they need.
All of the attorneys at our center have one of three virtual plan memberships which gives them all of the amenities of a private office — a professional address and mail services, high-speed WIFI, the ability to work from the space 24/7, phone answering and reception services, and online access to the scheduling program to book meeting space in two different conference rooms and a day office, as necessary. These virtual plans range from $179-$300 per month and are on a month-to-month basis. When they need a day office, their logo is placed on the door for their clients to see, creating a great impression.
Accountants, CPAs, and Bookkeepers
These professionals operate much the same as attorneys in using the virtual plans, but with a high need for private office space for client meetings and intensive work sessions during certain times of the year. They pay for the use of private space only as needed, getting rid of the cost of having a full-time, year-round office space. They then stop using the month-to-month plans as soon as their busy season is over, without any penalty. They are warmly welcomed back when business picks up again!
People in this industry spend a lot of time on the phone, so they need to have a quiet space to make all those calls. Arranging for a private office is one option, but they can also opt for a shared space (for example, two desks in one office housing two different people), since they also spend quite a bit of time out meeting with clients. On those occasions when both people happen to be in the office, one of them can use a private phone booth for important calls.
People in this group are usually starting new ventures – we have business coaches, web designers, digital marketers, nursing associations, medical support staff, non-profit support – and they need to watch carefully how they spend every dollar. With the ability to start small, maybe using one of the virtual plans noted above, they can quickly pivot and add more features – access for an added employee, a full-time private office – whenever they need, without making long-term lease commitments. The staff at the business center functions as their support team and assesses how other services could benefit them. In my center, we’ve had two different entrepreneurs outgrow our space – and we were happy to see them “graduate”!
While these times are upsetting and tumultuous, work continues to be done. Having flexible work options is key to being able to stay functioning in an uncertain environment.