Transforming Uncertainty into a FLEX Solution

This article was written by Julia Mingorance, Senior Workplace Consultant at CBRE and alumn from the Master in Strategic Interior Design at IE School of Architecture and Design.

More than 500 days ago, our whole world was turned upside down and our way of life changed overnight. We were forced to stay at home and work away from the physical office, in a purely virtual collaboration.  In general, companies were surprised to maintain the same levels of productivity and results during these months—many even predicted the end of the office. As the health situation has started improving, a lot of companies have returned to the office, experimenting with different flexible models combining remote work and in-office days. The normalization of remote work means that many organizations see it as an opportunity to reduce office space and therefore, save costs.

The classic concept of estimating m2 for an office is being challenged completely. New variables are appearing in the equation and these are increasing uncertainty about just how much office space is needed. 

Transforming Uncertainty into a FLEX Solution - Image 2 of 4
Courtesy of IE School of Architecture and Design

How many days of remote work will employees have? Will everyone have the same number within the company? What attendance model will be established: a voluntary or a no-choice model? Will there be days when everyone meets up in the office? How do we ensure that there is enough space in the office for everyone? How can we manage to retain and attract talent with the new work model? How do we manage occupancy peaks? How do we ensure a meaningful experience for employees once they are in the office? How can we make the office become a magnet for employees and a place for collaboration and teamwork? What are other companies doing? So many questions. We are being asked them everyday

Faced with these variables, organizations are asking themselves how many m2 of office space they need in this new reality. Of course, there is not a magic formula to answer such a question, but there is something that all companies seem to share: flexibility to respond to uncertainty. Organizations are living organisms and are constantly changing, as such, they need a space that’s a dynamic, flexible ecosystem which encourages collaboration between different business areas and facilitates the absorption of occupancy peaks.  

In this search for an “expandable” space, flexible models are gaining a lot of attention. From CBRE's Agile Desk department, we’re finding that there are more enquires for a Flex model this year, going from a 70/30 split between conventional and flex office in 2019 to 60/40 in 2021 (this data is based on our research in Madrid). The trend toward flex demand is growing significantly, pushed by the global paradigm shift in the way we work. This is seen in all sectors and company models and in particular, there is an increased interest in flex space from large corporations.

Transforming Uncertainty into a FLEX Solution - Image 3 of 4
Courtesy of IE School of Architecture and Design

Advantages of flex spaces

Some of the main advantages that the flex model shows compared to the conventional office and which are relevant to gain market share are:

  • It allows very fast and flexible solutions for renting spaces, adapting to companies’ different needs and objectives, and responding to the changing day-to-day requirements in working conditions of large corporations, startups, and freelancers.
  • Its pay-per-use model and “all-inclusive” rates (furniture, equipment, energy usage, etc.) favors booking per seat, not by m2, which helps to optimize costs and reduce risks for companies.
  • The flex model allows corporations to alleviate peaks in employee occupancy, avoiding a negative experience in the office.
  • They are the best alternative to teleworking in a well-being-centered, ergonomic, and safe environment close to the employees' homes, the client's office, the corporate headquarters, etc. At the same time, they offer a wide variety of spaces and ways of working where employees feel sometimes more productive than at home.
  • Fully customized environments according to the needs of each company, such as private spaces, confidentiality, private reception, personalized branding, etc.
  • Community feeling that fosters entrepreneurship and networking in a “phygital” environment, facilitating a hybrid way of working.

The growing demand for flexibility by employees, and the new ways of hybrid work, were originally aimed at reducing office space. But we are witnessing how the answer is not to rush into reducing the size of the workspace but to face these uncertainties by making the workspace more flexible. 


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Julia Mingorance. Image Courtesy of IE School of Architecture and Design
About this author
Cite: Julia Mingorance. "Transforming Uncertainty into a FLEX Solution" 20 Dec 2021. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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