Why are mix-use spaces and flexible offices trending?

The coworking trend has been taking over offices across Central London and influencing workspace layouts and designs. Foremost, coworking requires flexibility from the sense of rental terms, furniture layouts, amenities, extra services and just about anything you can start thinking about. It’s been a disruptive trend considering commercial property in London has had traditional, hefty long-term contracts pushed from landlord onto occupiers for many years. So, why are offices becoming more flexible? 

Flexible space and mixed-use purpose 

Since ecommerce has been disrupting the retail industry, specifically shopping centres/malls, it’s no wonder, building investors and developers are creating more mixed-use spaces around Central London. Enabling traditionally static and purpose dedicated spaces to be rented out by a wider variety of occupiers allows owners to meet demand.  

Also, the success of co-living buildings like The Collective, which offers coworking and co-living space within the same building complexes; proves that providing lifestyle, retail, office and residential space meets the needs of modern city workers.  

Without renovating or requiring much investment, restaurant/bar owners have caught on the trend and turn their floors into coworking spaces during optimal hours of the day. Even parking lots have opportunity to transform into outdoor coworking space and corporate off-sites.  

Recently, a niche coworking startup called Alma, received enough funding to provide a co-practicing workplace for wellness professionals – therapists and coaches. It highlights how more professionals from other sectors can move away from secluded traditional office buildings and practices, into flexible office spaces to gain more business.  

Flexible workspace contracts 

It’s a no brainer for an entrepreneur or startup to go for a flexible contract when they risk cashflow issues or quickly changing employee numbers. Long-term contracts were meant to benefit landlords with dependable occupants; however, entrepreneurs already risk their own job security among other aspects and thus demand flexible contracts.  

The success of Airbnb for homeowners showcased how short-term rentals can be just as lucrative as hotel businesses. That wave of homeowners choosing to become like hotel owners normalised a new rental behaviour that extended to retail and commercial sectors. Online platforms enable rental processes to be more efficient with capabilities of streamlining contracts, signatures and payments online. Subscription-based membership packages or flexible pay-as-you-go deals via online or mobile payments have truly made hotdesking and coworking easier.   

Flexible office design and services for modern workers 

Traditional cubicle farms are rare to find in London offices. Open floor plans were heavily adopted under the pretence of being ‘modern designs’ to accommodate less hierarchical organisational structures and promoting collaboration. However, coworking trends – from internet cafés to WeWorks across the world – make it clear that it’s not enough to have stripped back standardised open floor plans.  

Incorporating fun elements, art and biophilia in office design is expected from modern workers. By providing various event rooms, breakout rooms, kitchen/bars, nap pods, game rooms, exercise rooms, shower/locker rooms, communal event programmes and other extra services; flexible office owners are giving a variety of amenities and services crucial for people striving to have work-life balance. Offering various work environments for workers to freely choose from according to their task at hand is true flexibility. Also, the flexibility to host non-work related events at the office place help break up the work day, promoting networking and creativity. Happier employees certainly help company performance in the long run and mean good rapport for everyone.  

Offering flexible space and contracts, and increasing the arms of services or focussing on a niche can help give landowners competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive landscape.   

In all, there are many benefits to mixed-use spaces and flexible offices that understandably are taking up increasingly more buildings across Central London. The trend has different property sectors overlapping as flexible, mixed-use spaces become the norm and raise the bar for competitive advantage.  

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