Last week I was a guest at the Flexoffice Congress of Vastgoedjournaal, where we met with a large number of experts to discuss the rise and future of our flexible office concepts. I looked back with Frank van der Sluys, head of research at Cushman & Wakefield, on the conversation we had 5.5 years ago. At that time, Frank researched the emerging trend of flexible working, and since then, a lot has changed in the flexible office market. Bas van Veggel, founder of B. Amsterdam, was able to express this change perfectly: 'Previously, the flexible offices were pushed into the multitenant atmosphere, or referred to as disguised vacancy. Nowadays, our industry is taken much more seriously, and it has become a real asset class'.
This is the result of the combined efforts of all the flexible office operators operating in our market, many of whom were present at the congress. Let me explain: we may not have been around the table planning our marketing campaigns, and we do not mention each other in our advertisements, but together we have ensured that flexible offices have been given a separate place in the real estate sector. Google on 'flexible office': you will find many results. If only one had appeared, the concept of flexible working would not have been so well known today. We did a great job, WeWorks, IWG, Scalehub, HNK, TOO and B. Amsterdam!
Harold Coenders, director of Occupier Services at Collier International, highlighted the importance of quality: thanks to the digital revolution, work and private life are inseparable. With your laptop and phone, you can work anywhere, and that's why people are making more and more demands on the leisure component of their workplace. You want to feel at home in any case, which is why many concepts have a real 'living room' feeling. He immediately adds that we don't all want the same living room, which means that, just like hotel concepts, we are going to focus more and more on what certain target groups want. For the future, where private life, work and leisure will mix even more, we will increasingly look for combined hotel and office solutions. Sleeping, working and relaxing in one place, ideal for business nomads who sometimes fly in for one or two days.
Another development in that 5.5-year period is that flexible offices that blossomed in economic lows as a sort of remedy and could therefore be described as anti-cyclical, are now not disappearing in economic high times but simply continuing to grow. In this way, the sector shows that it is insensitive to the economic climate. At most, the consideration of corporates to use flexible offices has changed. During low economic times, the use of flexible offices was in many cases driven by cost savings, while the basis for the current use is much more to be found in the positive experience of corporates with flexibility. The importance of a community and the possibility of cross-pollination with smaller companies and start-ups cannot be expressed in monetary terms.
When Frank announced me, he called me the ‘nestor’ of flexible working. The real nestor is Sipke Feenstra (The Office Operators), a man who shares his ideas with the rest of the real estate sector, and - like me - likes it if his ‘friendly competitors’ can do something with it. Actually, I hate the word ‘friendly competitors’ because it implies that we see each other as competitors. I came to an important conclusion during this congress: we’re no competitors at all. We are not fighting against each other, but with each other. Together, we have achieved a strong position for flexible offices within the real estate market, formed a top-of-mind solution for office accommodation, and now we need to ensure that the user understands that it is no longer about square meters, but about quality on those square meters.
It is exactly as Harold said: not everyone wants the same living room. People know very well what they want, and they love to have a choice. It is up to us, the ‘friendly competitors’, to provide a perfect workplace for everyone. After all, it is no longer a question of the number of square meters, but of the quality of those square meters. The common denominator for end-users is that they don’t want to worry about the little things, like the supply of coffee beans, toilet paper or about the cleaning, the furniture, and so on. There's a lot to it, and there are plenty of practical reasons for renting a flexible office.
Our basic product is therefore the same, and HNK, IWG, TOO, B. Amsterdam, WeWorks and Tribes all offer a desk and an office chair. We distinguish ourselves from each other with the additional facilities, which means that you can also approach the differences between the flexible office concepts with a star system. The question for the end user is no longer 'how many square meters do you need?’, but becomes: 'do you want a 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 star workplace?’
PS And to see such a 5-star concept, come and visit Tribes! Make an appointment at Simba@tribes.world or call 0800 22 55 874!