Retaining corporate brand identity in flexible workspaces

Corporates may now be venturing into flexible space for the first time and might have worries about losing their brand identity or company culture. Julian Cooper (pictured), Managing Director at Flexible Space Association member Clarendon, explains why this doesn’t have to be the case and how businesses can retain this wherever their offices are.

Corporate demand for flexible office space has been steadily growing for a number of years. A 2019 report suggested that by the end of that year, 40 percent of demand for flexspace was expected to come from the corporate sector.

However, there are still many corporates that have not yet taken the first step into flexspace, for a variety of reasons. Many are locked into long-term leases and have to wait until they come close to expiring before exploring other options. Others are opting to press ahead with their own offices, such as Deutsche Bank’s new London headquarters.

Deutsche Bank couldn’t have predicted the spanner in the works that 2020 has proven to be so far, and yet their decision to build a brand new office perhaps offers an insight into why some corporates are hesitant to use flexspace.

In a company owned and managed building, everything can be designed to reflect the brand identity and culture of the company. From signage to the colour of the furniture, it’s all under control. There may be concern that in flexible space it’s harder to implement branding and instil the same culture.

I would argue that company culture and brand identity is not solely physical, but that it’s more of an emotional attachment to a brand, a business – and even to colleagues. It extends far beyond the four office walls and as such can be implemented wherever an employee works, whether that’s at home, in a coffee shop or in a flexible office.

That said, there are still some key considerations that corporates, or indeed any business, needs to take before moving into flexspace. My advice is, after determining your location, to find a building and an operator that best aligns with your company aspirations. Whether that be design, facilities, feature or be service driven.

Many of the larger flexible space operators have a uniformity in their buildings, regardless of what city or country they are in. While an element of branding is available to each tenant, the overriding brand of the some of the space in the market can be that of the operator.

There are numerous flexspace operators that manage unique spaces that have the look and feel of an individual building, rather than a franchise of a larger brand. Leasing space in such as space can help with creating a ‘home away from home’ office feel.

There are also many specialist operators that cater to particular sectors or business values. For example, some buildings may focus on clients in the tech or environmental sector. This can be a great way for tenants to meet likeminded businesses that they otherwise wouldn’t have crossed paths with. Sometimes this industry grouping is geographic; for example, Soho sites attract a lot of clients in the media industry, and the fact that that they can meet professionals working in the same field is a big selling point.

Flexspace operators will allow varying levels, whether this be the ability to paint their spaces, put up signage and install their own furniture, so offices really can be aligned with the look and feel of a headquarters.

As I stated earlier, while the office certainly has a role to play it does not define the brand identity and company culture. Businesses must support staff working in flexspace to ensure they are as well-equipped as those in the main office.

Company culture is also instilled in communication and camaraderie. Employees based in flexspace may feel cut off from those in the main office, so regular video calls and other forms of communication can help keep the team together. This doesn’t have to be work-related – lots of companies have virtual drinks on a Friday evening to give everyone the chance to unwind and socialise.

Corporate real estate professionals that take all of the above into consideration will find the addition of flexspace to their portfolios can provide numerous long-standing benefits to the company and its employees.

13 July 2020

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