Life after the pandemic: flexible offices crowding out traditional ones?

In the face of uncertainty, flexibility becomes especially important, so the concept of ABW or activity-based workspace is in a better position than traditional offices. It is worth noting that there has long been a trend for flexible jobs in the world, the pandemic has only accelerated the increase in demand for them. The ABW concept is based on intelligent use of office space and increased efficiency. According to research, by 2030, about 30% of offices in Europe will be flexible spaces.

ABW is often confused with the so-called hot-desking, when one workplace is used by several employees in turn in order to reduce costs, and the interests of the employees themselves are little taken into account. The ABW concept creates a freer environment in which the best conditions for solving different types of tasks are formed. Instead of one desktop, each office worker gets many jobs that can be chosen to taste throughout the day: a desk, a noise-insulated meeting room, resting places, "team islands". This environment greatly increases the productivity of each employee.

Modern people appear in the office mainly for communication, current work can be done from home, a cafe or even on a trip, but some kind of "base" is needed to interact with colleagues and clients. In addition, ABW can be rebuilt as needed, because the people and internal processes of the company are dynamic. For example, if the administrative director receives a call from the HR director with a request to prepare 10 places for new employees by tomorrow, then this will not be a problem for a flexible office, while for a classic office such a situation is a disaster. In a flexible office for a company with 30 employees in the state, you can safely rent 25 places and this will be enough, because there is almost no one hundred percent turnout: some people are on business trips, vacations and sick leave. And even if everyone comes, they will find how to accommodate themselves on sofas, in meeting rooms and at common tables.

Interesting Facts:

  • Russian agency S.A. Ricci took a project team of 70 people as an example and compared two scenarios in numbers: renting a flexible office and renting a traditional one (both for two years). This small study showed that the first option outperforms the second by 14.7 million rubles. Of course, this is the perfect alignment, but the figure is still impressive.

  • According to Regus, Microsoft, Adidas and Facebook already have deals in the flexible offices market; in Russia they are used by Sberbank, Yandex, and Rostelecom. Tinkoff and MTS have recently added to the list.

  • According to CBS, flexible working hours increase the productivity of company employees by 20-40%, and office rental costs can be reduced by up to 30% simply by reducing the number of equipped workplaces.

  • Cushman and Wakefield estimate that Moscow residents spend more than three working weeks a year in traffic jams. Already, up to 7% of employees of companies in Moscow can constantly practice remote work (for comparison, in the USA - 25-30%).

The implementation of the “flexible office” concept has become possible thanks to the development of digital tools that allow employees to interact and solve office tasks from anywhere with an Internet connection. For example, it has become customary that a company employee can connect to corporate systems from home at any time and collaborate with colleagues on a project, hold a video meeting and sign documents using a digital signature. To accomplish such tasks, there are ecosystems of the largest vendors, such as Office 365 from Microsoft, and specialized solutions.

It is very important that the flexible offices experience has a positive impact. It is not enough to create a comfortable space; it is also important to build a convenient system for its use. For example, avoid congestion of the same areas, implement flexible planning and restructuring in the event of canceled events. Our company always tries to keep up with the times and follow the market trends, so we offered our clients a solution to these problems - the service “Booking jobs”, which helps to ensure the efficient operation of flexible offices.

It can be embedded in any company ecosystem and integrate with calendars and corporate messengers. Another nice feature of this system is the ability to book workplaces in a chat bot.

In general, our solution was born in response to requests related to new requirements that appeared in April 2020 and put the business in new working conditions. It became necessary for corporations to separate work streams and seat employees, taking into account social distance. Indeed, when returning to the workplace after COVID, the issue of safety becomes one of the most pressing.

Workplace booking solutions allow management to not only share flows and take into account social distance, but also be aware of who visited the office, where they sat and when, and who was near them, keeping track of both assigned and flexible desks. Another nice bonus of the service: control of compliance with sanitary requirements using individual checklists for disinfection of workplaces.

And this significantly increases the level of security in the office. You can track the readiness of workplaces to be visited by employees. The system shows during which periods sanitization of the premises is required (for example, after the end of a scheduled meeting). Any employee can see the current status of any workplace and independently choose from them those that have been disinfected.

In order to maintain "social distance", it is recommended to leave in the same room:

  • up to 50 sq. m - no more than 5 people;

  • up to 100 sq. m - no more than 10 people;

  • up to 200 sq. m - no more than 25 people;

  • over 200 sq. m - no more than 50 people.

It was also important for many of our clients that the solution for booking workplaces could optimize office resources: reallocate workplaces in case of cancellations / replacements, controlled duplicate events and automatically canceled all bookings when an employee did not show up. And the booking system solves all these issues. It also helps with planning by providing statistics on visits to areas and a complete picture of high and low demand premises.

All of this is aimed at increasing work efficiency. Moreover, efficiency is understood not only and not so much saving space and money, but the ability to attract the best employees, use working hours correctly, enable personnel to live life to the fullest, maintaining a balance of work and rest.

Whereas earlier the share of office workplaces tended to 100%, now only about a third of companies are firmly intent on returning all employees to offices, while the majority claim that their main goal is to work efficiently and safely from anywhere. The trend is clear: Companies looking to keep talent and retain key talent are opting for a hybrid model in which their employees alternate between office, home and other locations.

After a pandemic, a classic office can become a hub, a kind of center of attraction for meetings with colleagues and solving certain problems, while most issues will increasingly be resolved outside of it. Therefore, we expect a reduction in office space against the backdrop of changes in the operating mode and safety rules for being in the office. Some companies will significantly reduce the leased space, others will partially, but this will be a clear trend in late 2020 and early 2021 ”. Natalya Nikitina – Partner, Head of the Office Real Estate Department at Cushman and Wakefield (Source: finance.rambler.ru).

The demand for the new format is also noted on the part of medium-sized companies with a staff of 50-150 people. Many of them are not ready now to conclude a lease for 4-5 years, as well as spend their resources on repairing it for themselves. A flexible office is a ready-made and more flexible option. It allows businesses to adapt to the changing conditions.