"Operators are being very responsive indeed to the needs of their customer. The customer is king and this is driving very, very rapid experimentation and flexibility."
So says Miles Gibson, Head of Research at CBRE, who led the BCA's second extensive report into the UK flexible workspace industry.
As part of a video interview with Richard Gill of Landmark Plc and BCA Executive Director, Jennifer Brooke, Miles discussed the impressive diversity of today's flexible space industry, which ranges from serviced and managed offices to coworking and industrial workspace.
"There are as many models as there are operators now," Miles commented. "The customer is getting more demanding over time, they like what they see, and there is now intensive competition in the sector. Therefore it's quite difficult to pigeonhole operators into simple categories."
Whilst it is necessary to categorise operators by their type of workspace for the benefit of the BCA report, the sheer breadth of choice in today's industry is most certainly one of its best assets (second only to its flexibility).
Indeed, the new report comes at a busy time for the BCA, not least due to the launch of its freshly designed website.
And what's the most noticeable element of the new site? You guessed it - diversity. Taking pride of place on the homepage is a slider featuring the most prominent forms of flexible space - including serviced offices, coworking, studio workspace, managed offices, light industrial space, virtual office services, and meeting room hire. See for yourself at www.bca.uk.com.
Yet whilst it's necessary to categorise our industry in such ways for the benefit of clients, newcomers and for research purposes, Miles is quick to stress that it's important "not to over-simplify the characteristics of what is a very rapidly growing and flourishing sector."
Indeed, this incredible range of choice is playing directly into the hands of the industry's increasingly vital role to growing businesses and the UK economy. The BCA report, based on 2014 findings and released earlier this month, found that Britain's flexible workspace sector now contributes approximately £8billion to GDP.
It's an impressive figure. Furthermore, given that it relates to 2014 data, this figure is expected to rise still further in subsequent BCA Reports (watch this space).
And let's not forget that diversity also relates to other elements, such as length of stay. The research found that clients are choosing to stay in their flexible workspace for longer, and are continuing to grow within the space as larger businesses.
"I expect that trend will have continued since ," added Miles. "People arrive in a serviced or managed office space, they're not sure about their future so they stay a little longer. They turn into semi-permanent residents. They may well be there for 2, 3 or even 4 and 5 years before they've made the choice that they're big enough to move on to other kinds of space."
Jennifer Brooke added to these findings by referring to the corporate sector, which is "now using the space very constructively" rather than as a last-resort alternative to the traditional lease.
"They are making a very informed decision to use flexible space. They've got the ability to expand and contract as projects dictate. They can come and go and use the space depending on their projects at any particular time. And that doesn't just reflect London, it is happening across the regions as well."
Of course this news bodes extremely well for the UK industry, particularly in the wake of the 'Brexit' vote. More importantly, it demonstrates that our industry's ability to bend and flex to the needs of our clients - from startups to corporates, from 'kitchen table' hobbyists to multi-national supply chains - will only lead to greater reliance on our sector in years to come.
Watch the full interview here: