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Flexible workspace or traditional office - which is better for you in 2020?

April 15, 2020

As trends in work culture have evolved, so should the way we decide on which type of space we should be working from. Work no longer has to be done in a static arrangement, and in many cases, can be done anywhere. For all their advantages, dedicated offices in the traditional sense don’t easily let us adapt to changes in business culture and needs without a costly trade-off. This is where flexible workspaces come in.

In recent years, we have become acquainted with flexible workspaces through the explosive growth of brand names in coworking, such as WeWork. According to CBRE, we can expect the strong demand for flex space to continue through 2020 as companies continue to deal with ebbs and flows in headcount numbers, and increasingly decentralized workforces.  

This is especially true even with the outbreak of COVID-19, which has mandated de-densification of office spaces for companies. More employees are working from home. Companies have also been splitting their team into different workspaces and lining up contingency workspaces as part of their Business Continuity Plan.  

Fortunately, flexibility is the best thing to have in uncertain and unstable times such as this one.  

Does your workspace let you be as agile and adaptable as possible?

Not every company has fully embraced flexibility as a key factor for office leasing. This is either because they never knew that office leasing options with flexible terms were an option, or they just took the costs of traditional leasing as a given.

 

Flexible workspaces also tend to be associated with startups and individual freelancers. However, with the negative impacts of COVID-19 on the business climate, we will likely see most companies, even corporates, rethinking their traditional workspace arrangements.  

Given this context, should you opt for a flexible workspace or stay at traditional and dedicated office? And which one is best suited for your business?  

Before we delve deeper into these questions, it’s worth clarifying the major differences between flexible workspaces and traditional offices.  

What are Traditional Offices and Flexible Workspaces?  

 

Flexible Workspaces

Flexible workspaces, often found in coworking offices, offer very limited control over infrastructure but have more wiggle room with lease terms. Business owners can upscale or downsize much more quickly with this arrangement than with traditional workspaces.  

Five types of flexible workspaces at coworking offices

  1. A dedicated desk. The desk and chairs are exclusively for your use. You share common areas with the other tenants.  
  1. A hot desk. This is a shared coworking space where pass holders or members take available, communal workstations. It is similar to dedicated desk, except that you don’t have an assigned workstation.  
  1. A serviced office. Also known as a private office. By renting a serviced office within a coworking space, you get confidentiality and security for your business, and a dedicated space for a handful of employees at a time. You also still have access to communal facilities.  
  1. A virtual office. Without a physical workspace, you can still register your business with a reputable address at a cost-effective price. This lets you build trust and a local presence for your business.  
  1. Meeting spaces that can be booked from an hour to a day.  

 

The Pros and Cons of Flexible Workspaces  

Here are both the pros and cons to going all-in on flexible workspaces.  

Pros of Flexible Workspaces

  1. Many networking opportunities.  
  1. Fewer/Almost no miscellaneous expenses. You don’t have to spend on build-out, such as for amenities, renovations and furniture. There are no high up-front costs or long-term commitments required as well.  
  1. Built-in management. You don’t need to hire anyone for reception or worry about facilities management.    
  1. Lower overhead and fixed costs.  You can select a daily, weekly or monthly rental agreement that fits you and your team's business schedule to eliminate costly under-utilization.  
  1. Pre-designed with a variety of options. You don’t have to worry about the design of the workspace. You can just choose the space that offers the right environment for you and move in.  

Unique coworking location
There are a lot of unique options for flexible workspaces, like this!

 

Cons of Flexible Workspaces  

  1. It can get crowded. There may be a lot of people working, having meetings, or holding events around you in the common area. All this activity can be distracting.  
  1. Lack of personal space. Some employees may not feel comfortable in a shared setting.
  1. Shared spaces might not be available. Shared facilities, such as common areas or meeting rooms, might not be available whenever you need them.  

 

The Pros and Cons of Traditional Offices

 

Here are the major upsides—and downsides— to a traditional or dedicated office as an alternative to a flex space.  

Pros of Traditional Offices  

  1. Privacy. A dependable, dedicated office space offers you a quiet place with fewer distractions.  
  1. Better perception from visitors. Confidentiality is maintained for clients and you can avoid the perception that your company isn’t large enough to meet their needs.  
  1. Low switching costs. There is time and effort expended in searching for the next suitable workspace, which wouldn’t be needed if you were locked into a lease.

Traditional office
You can build a traditional office to have the exact vibe and amenities that you want.

Cons of Traditional Offices

  1. Long-term commitment.  By renting a traditional office, you’ll have to make a long-term commitment (sometimes for multiple years) and upfront payments for deposits, build-outs, and other assets.  
  1. Less networking opportunities. There are fewer opportunities to engage with different companies.  
  1. Office management tasks. You will need to shoulder the costs for maintaining office operations and facilities.  

 

Which workspace is right for you?  

Here's a quick recap:

Go for a traditional office if you prefer

  • a long-term lease  
  • complete control over infrastructure and office assets

Go for a flexible workspace if you prefer

  • a short-term lease  
  • very limited control over infrastructure and office assets

Both flexible workspaces and traditional offices have their pros and cons. The right choice depends on many factors:

  • Business model
  • Budget  
  • Headcount plans
  • Company culture  
  • Decision-making timeline
  • Intended perception of your company
  • Likelihood of external disruptions that limit office use

Choose wisely!  

 

Interested in exploring some flexible workspace options? We've got a regularly updated list of flexible workspace promos in Hong Kong right here: link

 

Further Reading

To learn more about the latest global trends in flexible space from our partners at Colliers International, click here.