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Nidhi Marwah

Managing Director – India, Sri Lanka and GCC, The Executive Centre

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Rise of flexible workspaces: The new world work order

Demand for flexible workspace in India is estimated to jump five times by 2025 to 130-140 million sq ft, accounting for one-third of global coworking inventory

The concept of flexible workspace continues to generate plenty of conversation about evolved ways of working and globally there are several broad factors driving the growth of this industry. Changing work habits, perceived cost efficiency, the growing importance of community and the value of flexible and bespoke solutions are some of the important contributing aspects. The advantage of this model is that it allows the company to focus on its business operations and leave the extensive planning, procuring, designing and operating of the office to an expert. India is today second only to China when it comes to market size for flexible workspace in the Asia Pacific region . Currently, a total of 17 million+ square feet are designated as ‘coworking’ spaces and there are sure signs that the rapid growth of the industry is set to continue.

India has seen a rapid change in the flexible workspace industry, with more and more people assessing the various options that are available in the flex industry and are subsequently driving demand for this fast-growing service.

Large Corporates Leading the Charge
In India today, large enterprises account for 65-70% of demand for flexible workspaces . Coworking may be popularly favoured by freelancers and start-ups, but the bulk of the industry is supported by well-established MNCs who increasingly see the value of having at least part of their real estate portfolio managed by a flex provider. For these organisations, a flexible workspace gives them the ability to scale quickly, testing new markets with limited risk, growing their teams in response to fluctuating business imperatives and ultimately, giving them the chance to operate with the speed and agility of a start-up.

The Cost Advantage
In the past few years, we have noticed corporate real estate leaders opting for flexible workspaces as opposed to traditional offices. This not only helps with cost efficiency, but these spaces also allow for more efficient space strategies by reducing overall occupancy. With flexible workspaces, companies have an option of scaling up or scaling down, without being tied to a fixed cost and a fixed space. This is also way of minimizing risk in their real estate portfolio. Additionally, companies can save on business property taxes as they are required to pay only a fixed rate for a defined time period. One can also save on ancillary staff, as well maintenance costs given that flexible workspaces are already equipped to deliver these particular services.

Technology Matters
It is impossible to consider the flex landscape without considering the essential role of technology. Privacy is a huge concern for all industries, but particularly the banking and financial sectors. If flex providers are to sustain genuine growth and hold real credibility with these types of organisations, they will need to show they have the capacity to deliver secure and robust IT solutions. Additional to this, there is also a need to develop their own technological infrastructure to support smarter operation of workspaces, as well as facilitating elements like community, events and cashless payment for onsite services.

A Global Network at Your Fingertips

Large flexible workspace providers will have a strong foothold in different markets across the globe, and opting for a flexible workspace can give you direct access to their global network. Travelling across countries and developing a professional network in new cities now becomes easier if you are a registered member with a flexible workspace organisation. Flexible spaces give you the option of checking in to any global centre without any added cost or registration. As technology comes into the picture, workspace providers are increasingly investing in applications and solutions that will enable community-building via mobile devices without the need for regular travel or in-person meetings to build community across all their centres globally.

The Power of Customization

Real estate is one of the last industries to be disrupted by the customization economy that has already helped reframe retail, hospitality and more, but there are clear signs that this is changing and changing fast. The level of customisation that flexible workspaces offer is a key driver of demand for flexible workspaces. Customisation is an important factor in the ability of flex providers to engineer genuine experiences for organizations. Companies today are looking for services that will allow them to customize their workspaces according to their brand guidelines and global mandates to ensure absolute consistency in all markets.

All in all, changes in the CRE market are largely a result of four overarching global demand drivers – urbanization, technology, flexibility and an evolving workforce. These above-mentioned demand drivers have a large role to play in establishing the strong foothold that this industry enjoys in India and which is only set to grow further in the near future.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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