Flexible Workspace: A Model For Corporate and Government Efficiency

Flexible Workspace: A Model For Corporate and Government Efficiency

LondonCorporate firms using flexible workspace is nothing new. Since 2009, research by JLL suggests that the number of corporates using serviced offices has increased by around 30%.

As we know, the value of flexible workspace lies primarily in its flexibility and adaptability. Corporates can react to changing market conditions quickly and provide entire departments, units or project teams with almost instantaneous access to fully equipped workspace in convenient locations across the UK.

Regus is a classic example, given that the firm accommodates corporate clients such as Google Inc and GlaxoSmithKline Plc among others.

Many flexible workspace operators are reacting to this demand by offering new services catering to corporate requirements. While standard flexible contracts remain a core product, operators are also offering longer-term solutions to provide a step-change for firms that require a significant presence without the worrisome burden of a conventional long-term lease.

Government opportunity

Indeed, it's not just corporates that are recognising the flexible benefits of serviced offices. Government departments are increasingly using this style of workspace as a means to pool and share resources, increase property efficiency and save money.

Bruce Mann, Head of the Government Property Unit, explained via Estates Gazette (23/08/14) that government departments are now turning to shared 'hubs'. He says that the era of people having their own dedicated space, or departments occupying their own buildings, is now at an end.

He points to 21 Bloomsbury as an example, which will soon house 7 separate government departments. "Moves like this have allowed us to reduce holdings in London from 185 in 2010 to 92 today, with further reductions to come," said Mann.

The shift is not exclusive to London. In Bristol, Temple Quay will become the location for up to 12 government departments and 28 agencies, meaning "dozens" of buildings can be vacated by 2020. Furthermore, the possibility of sharing commercial property extends right across the public sector, as part of the One Public Estate programme.

While this may represent a significant government upheaval, this workplace approach is business as usual for the majority of non-government organisations, from startups right up to multinationals. Sharing buildings with other firms has long been accepted as a practical and cost-effective way of renting or leasing workspace. Of course the serviced office sector trail-blazed this approach and opened it up to smaller businesses several decades ago, with the added benefit of increased flexibility. And while it may have been little known 20 or 30 years ago, today the concept is mainstream.

Indeed, the Government could learn a great deal from the flexible workspace sector.

As Mann explained, it is already experiencing significant cost-savings as a result of sharing buildings. So far, the consolidation of commercial property has enabled the government to save £647m in running costs each year, generate more than £1.4bn in receipts and reduce the size of the estate by 21.5m sq ft.

Smart working

The government is also going one step further by evaluating how workspace can help public sector employees to work "smarter".

Those same shared hubs are designed to help people to work at locations and times that work best for them - "working from any space, using a desk or meeting room by the hour or the day". According to Mann, the Bristol hub will have bookable touchdown space, accessible to staff across the public sector, while a trial is also in the pipeline for Newcastle.

And during the interim while space is being vacated, the government is making it available to startups and SMEs on short-term workspace agreements.


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