Does flex offer corporates the competitive X-factor?

Melissa Ansley, Head of Flex Transactions EMEA, gives her views in the latest of our One Voice series articles

Flex space helps mitigate many of today’s business risks – and corporates are increasingly recognising that. According to JLL’s 2022 Future of Work Survey, some 43% of organisations plan to accelerate investment in flexible space over the next three years, while 51% plan to lease flexible space through a third-party provider.

Amid economic uncertainty, supply chain issues and the transition to hybrid work, flexible space products provide innovative solutions that are helping businesses proactively manage their real estate commitments, while avoiding the need to take on long leases or extensive, costly fit outs. According to JLL’s latest EMEA Fit-Out Cost Guide 2022/23, the average fit-out cost in Europe rose 21.5% year-on-year (YoY) to the average of EUR 1,623 per sqm, motivating more companies to look for all-inclusive contracts from their future landlords.

In my opinion, a holistic approach to incorporating flex into wider strategies is critical for those who wish to stay competitive. It creates an eco-system of real estate options for organisations to leverage, supporting both the enterprise and workforce needs while ultimately delivering maximum value within portfolios.

Flexing for talent

As people return to post-pandemic offices, businesses are faced with creating spaces that will draw people back to the workplace, support them in new patterns of work, and solve for distributed teams, all while finding greater agility, should they need to scale up or down. They’re seeking solutions that not only answer short-term needs but also give them an X-factor that helps them compete for talent. Flex can support these objectives when leveraged in the right way.

Typically, flex spaces offer creative approaches to design and community and, in recent months, we’ve seen a surge for high quality spaces that are amenity driven. According to one of the worlds leading flex aggregators, the average occupancy rate for amenity focused spaces is 82% whereas as other space types range from 74%- 80%.

Companies are now seeking workplaces and flex partners that align to their workspace principles by providing enhanced technology, privacy, hospitality, and a variation of workstyles that organically promote productivity and collaboration.

Tech companies have long been the predominate user of flex space and that will continue. However, recently, we’ve also seen a growing number of financial institutions and more conservative organisations join the flex phenomenon as they evolve work environments to help solve for under-utilisation, while attracting and retaining talent.

It’s an interesting time for occupiers as several flex providers and landlords are putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and design, creating high functioning facilities which can be accessed in a simplified way.

Understanding the problems flex solves

Navigating the barriers to entry and what flex solves is often challenging for enterprises who’ve not used it before. Therefore, education and data insights are critical.

We’re currently partnering with a forward-thinking financial institution who recognize that flex should be an integrated part of their strategy. By supporting them in the creation of educational material and identifying the appropriate business units to leverage flex workspaces, we’re defining critical success factors for the implementation and on-going management of their flex programs.

Live market knowledge, innovative solutions, and creative scenario development are key and as the project takes shape, it’s exciting to see diverse options and solutions emerge, that are uncovering value and offering greater choice for their workforce globally.

Data insights are also essential for future proofing portfolios and understanding which environments people are drawn to, especially as under-utilisation continues to be an issue across the board. It’s why in many flex programs we’re seeing an increased demand for complementary technologies that support these insights and enable data driven decision making.

An example of this is a leading talent acquisition and management company experiencing rapid growth in both workforce and new company acquisitions. Like many other corporations, they were faced with under-used spaces, globally distributed teams, and the need to be competitive in attracting top talent in their field.

By incorporating multiple types of flex products and leveraging a Workspace OnDemand technology, we’ve been able to uncover trends and patterns, understand the types of spaces their teams have been using, as well as which styles are most popular. Subsequently, the information is being used to support the employee experience and inform future decisions and real estate planning.

More than a trend

Well before the pandemic, flex space was gaining popularity among corporates. Now, with flex providers increasingly listening and responding to what occupiers want, we’ll see flexible offerings continue to mature.

Flex space certainly has a key role to play in helping businesses stay competitive by attracting and retaining skilled people – and companies are better placed all round when they can provide and solve for the amenities, flexibility and agility aspirations of both the employees and business leaders.

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