Flexible offices, flexible everything: why do you have an office?

by Thom van Wijk

Why have an office? This may sound strange coming from a company letting office space but it’s a very relevant question for many companies and for many reasons. 

And even though we may know why we want to have an office, it may not be for the “right” reasons, or at least not to our workforce. Not since the pandemic. Employees may not want to come to the office as much as they did or is now expected. Some companies are fine with that, most are not. Most employees will reach a middle ground with their employers, others want flexibility so much that they’re willing to change jobs over it. 

By now the majority has come to terms with a hybrid way of working – both working from home and the office. But the “why” remains very relevant: why do you come to the office to work?

The reason why we find it relevant to ask about the ‘why’ is not to question the need for having an office space – we’re all about that and we witness all of the benefits on a daily basis. But we do believe the question in itself is a good starting point to determine what it is that you and your employees need and expect from having a go-to space to work. 

Start with why

‘Start with why’ is a famous theory by famous Simon Sinek, and it does not only apply to how you do business, it can also apply to how you like to work. What is the purpose of having this office? It should be about finding the benefits for your employees and the way their work can serve your business best. 

Having an office just as a place to show facetime is not acceptable anymore, it will shift the energy from positive opportunities to your employees asking: Why exactly did I have to come to the office to do this work?

Flexibility seems to be the magic word. Or magic work? A flexible work system and flexible office space. The work system will vary from company to company, but we are learning very much about how we can best make use of our spaces and how much space it is that we actually need. Not only in a practical square meter type of way, but more so: What type of experience do you want to offer your employees? The experience now really being all about avoiding the rigidness associated with traditional offices. It’s no coincidence so many businesses have been opting for flexible types of workspaces and this will not change any time soon.

Flexible Offices in 2022

What does it mean to have a flexible office? Nowadays it’s best designed to provide employees with different ways and places to work, depending on what they’re working on and what their needs are at the moment. That means no fixed desk positions but instead enabling workers to choose the area of the workspace that is most suitable for the kind of work they’re doing. 

Does that mean you need a bigger office to be able to provide these different work areas? No, or not necessarily. Everyone is no longer working in the office on the same days plus you can often make use of shared “break out” spaces your office building has to offer. As a flexible extension you can book meeting rooms for specific tasks and teams. It is no coincidence either that we offer these services at ScaleHub and that we feel the dynamic of an office should be around offering flexibility: using space – and even rearranging work areas – to make the most of it and best serve the needs of employees in the interests of companies that rent our spaces. The ideal office should create a positive environment for employees, boost the creative juices, improve productivity and well-being and be a vessel for talent acquisition and retention. 

The soft values of flexible offices

Being part of a flexible office concept, preferably ScaleHub, obviously comes with many more benefits than offering a good space to work. Working in a building or floor where several businesses operate under the same roof, provides employees from different companies the opportunity to socialize and network, creating an interactive environment and in optimal form even innovation. It’s great for facilitating organic conversations (yes, that coffee pantry too!), brainstorms, team bonding and productivity boosters. You have the opportunity to network with like-minded businesses, creating beneficial connections that can help your business grow. This diversity – in optimal form – can even bring in new customers and collaborators for your business. 

Essential Features of the Flexible Office

Since flexible offices are generally created to meet a company’s unique and changing requirements, no two office spaces will or should be identical. However, there are certain features that most flexible workspaces offer to facilitate versatility and collaboration and that take the pressure of your rented space as the allocated square meters where all the magic needs to happen. We believe this way of working is useful to any company, especially scale-ups.

Removing physical barriers between employees to encourage free-flowing communication and collaboration between workers and across various teams had become very important. Sounds like an open-plan office, well yes. At some point everyone changed their office to open plan, and then after everyone did, we got flooded with research showing that it really gets in the way of our productivity. But let’s face it, scale-ups need flexibility and energy, not private offices to house their employees. On top of that, post pandemic the entire dynamic of how we are working has changed. Many of us now come to the office seeking interaction and collaboration. 

That doesn’t mean employees should not be able to work in peace at the office, we are still coming to the office to work. Flexible offices mitigate this by providing quiet zones where employees can have privacy and focus on tasks without distractions or interruptions. This zone could be in your office but also a shared facility. We call ours at ScaleHub “concentration booths”.

Regardless, it is important to ensure that everyone has access to quiet areas. They should not be constantly locked down by the same workers or teams. But if you make the best of hybrid work the pressure on your space is limited; everyone has the freedom to work from home to enjoy extra peace and quiet to work and not everybody will be in the office at the same time anyway.

Sociable environments, break-out spaces, shared work spaces, a coffee corner, concentration boots or meeting rooms on demand: these spaces are crucial to your employees and your business. Choose wisely. If you can, choose experience over square meters.