Workspaces have undergone a significant transformation in recent years, with the concept of work being redefined by many companies around the world. Today, work is no longer restricted to traditional and permanent offices as hybrid working - a work model consisting of in-office, remote and on-the-go workers - becomes increasingly popular. What does the future of the workplace look like with coworking spaces providing the right kind of customer experience that many workers are seeking?
"Coworking spaces near me"- a popular request on Google Search
Although 90% of executives believe in the future of hybrid work, 68% organizations do not have a vision for it. To bridge the gap between flexibility and productivity, coworking offices have emerged as a popular solution.
Flexible workspaces - My first impressions
As the world continues to navigate through the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the value of flexible workspaces has become increasingly clear. Companies like IWG plc, which operates flexible office spaces globally, are leading the charge in providing high-quality flexible work spaces that meet the needs of modern-day professionals. Regus, one of IWG's subsidiaries, offers an excellent example of a well-designed and modern office.
To gain a better understanding of flexible work spaces, I had the opportunity to work for a day at the Regus Main Station Office in Lausanne while writing this article. I simply booked a day slot through the Regus app and was greeted warmly by the receptionist upon arrival, who introduced me to the facilities and space.
Physical space and emotional connections
I was impressed by the sleek and modern design of the office, with large windows that let in natural light and offered stunning views of Lac Leman in a distance. What stood out the most to me was the bustling yet respectful atmosphere of young professionals who were busy at their stations, typing away on their laptops or deep in conversation with their co-workers. It felt like I had entered 'The Nowhere Office' as described by Julia Hobsbawm in her book, where Generation Z demand the office more since they lack the space to set up a proper home office. Indeed, the coworking space was filled with people of this demographic.
As I settled into a quiet corner and set up my computer, I took advantage of the amenities provided. I headed to the coffee vendor machine and grabbed a complimentary fruit before striking up a short conversation with a freelance graphic designer who was also waiting for her coffee. She shared her experience with coworking spaces and told me that she had even met some of her clients at this centre.
In addition to its complementary services, the office offers essential extras such as meeting rooms, which are vital for professionals. Options range from small private spaces for two or three people to large open areas resembling lounges and living rooms. They are equipped with TVs, beverages and snacks. The technology in the meeting rooms equips you for hybrid teams, since in many (perhaps most) cases, some people will attend a meeting from another location. Furthermore, these meeting rooms are also suitable for boutique and small hotels that face space availability issues. Instead of having meeting rooms as a facility in the hotel, they could book rooms in nearby coworking offices and mark-up the price to their guests.
Having this experience at Regus gave me the opportunity to see the benefits of a professional, collaborative workspace. While I often find myself approaching Starbucks as an alternative from working at home, Regus was able to offer me a much quieter, more professional space with its wonderful reception desk.
We sell service, not square-meters. Micky Sapojnikov, Regus manager
The flexible workspace industry and hospitality
In the flexible workspace industry, providing a great "customer experience", takes a lot of inspiration from the hospitality industry. While the workspace and its location are important factors, they are merely the foundation for a successful flexspace office. As with booking a hotel room, customers have expectations when booking a flexible office space. The level of service, amenities and community provided by the flexspace operator can make all the difference in creating a positive and productive experience for its members. The flexspace desks or office's ability to understand and anticipate the needs of its customers is what sets it apart and fosters a loyal and happy customer base.
1. Sense of community
Firstly, the tangible aspects of an office’s design and extra amenities must be commensurate with its price, so it's important to tailor them to different customer segments. IWG, for example, offers three brands of varying levels of luxury in Switzerland. The luxury brand, Signature’s, office in Geneva boasts a lavish design and a bar lounge with high-end furnishings, private gym with instructor and private cinema room, making it an ideal choice for businesses looking to impress customers or partners with a luxurious setting.
However, to attract customers, providing necessary amenities and facilities such as coffee stations, meeting rooms and quiet areas is just the beginning. The modern office must cater to the changing needs of the workforce by offering better facilities and more opportunities than they might experience at home. It must also avoid being an archaic limitation on working freedom by providing a range of services and perks that foster a sense of community, well-being and creativity. By doing so, the office can provide a superior experience that goes beyond just a physical space to work, attracting and retaining customers.
2. Extra facilities
Secondly, the intangible benefit of service is a crucial factor that distinguishes flexible workspaces from traditional workspaces. In addition to providing a physical space, flexible workspaces strive to enhance members’ experience and boost their productivity through tailored services. Reception desks play a vital role in this, assisting members with tasks such as answering calls and forwarding mails when they are unavailable or busy. They are the extended arm of the customer, to ensure the customer can focus on its work, while they take care of the rest. This level of support is not achievable in a home office setting.
Regus also offers IT services, which can be especially valuable for new businesses seeking to save costs on an in-house IT department. Furthermore, customisation for long-term renters of the office allows them to design and create an office to their preference, without the need to invest capital into furniture or expensive built-out costs. At the Regus Centre, I even saw an office adapted as a call centre for a business. These services help create a more seamless and efficient work environment for members, ultimately contributing to their success.
3. Networking and collaboration opportunities
Thirdly, the most valuable aspect of flexible work is the potential for networking and socialization. Working from an office is not just about arriving at your desk, turning on your computer and completing tasks as you would at home. It's also about the chance to use physical spaces, interact with colleagues face-to-face, and collaborate on projects and ideas in a way that's simply not possible in a virtual environment.
Flexible work spaces can offer the opportunity for additional services, such as event organizing, to facilitate more rapid and efficient exchange between members from different companies. These events can be a great way to meet new people and build relationships with potential clients, partners, or collaborators. Additionally, flexible work spaces often provide communal areas such as kitchens, lounges or breakout rooms where members can gather, chat and exchange ideas. These spaces provide a fertile ground for new ideas and opportunities to emerge.
The hybrid working model represents not only a transformation in the physical workplace, but also a shift in mindset towards more flexible working arrangements. By promoting a balance between face-to-face and remote work, this model contributes to overall sustainability by reducing travel and polluting emissions.
According to IWG, which adopts the "sustainable workplace," this reduction in mobility can lead to a decrease in factors such as stress and exhaustion from traffic, city congestion, pollution, noise and accidents during work trips. This model can also mitigate noise pollution and wear and tear on the mobile fleet. Consolidating the hybrid work model offers a range of benefits, including increased worker confidence and improved operational efficiency. In addition, companies are increasingly seeking certified low-energy buildings and implementing sustainable resource use practices to support their environmental goals.
Hybrid working culture
In conclusion, the hybrid working model has revolutionized the way we work, and flexible work spaces have played a key role in driving this change. By embracing this model, companies can boost productivity, enhance worker satisfaction and contribute to building a sustainable future. Flexible work spaces are paving the way for a productive hybrid working culture, and it's time for businesses to embrace this new way of working.