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Flex Space Not So Simple a Request

In 2023, anyone responsible for making leasing and scheduling decisions in modern workspaces knows the score: fewer people are coming into the office five days a week, but that does not mean cutting space is the smartest option. Instead, workspaces need to better suit the individuals and teams coming into them.

What is Flex Space

Flex Space, making one space serve more than one purpose, is a term used to describe real estate space that can be used by occupiers to enhance collaboration, and reduce portfolio footprint and CapEx requirements by means of converting into several types of occupiable space. This can be anything from warehouse space to co-working space, soft meeting spaces, hybrid workspaces, hotel and hotdesking space and more.

Flex office space is a constant theme in the ongoing conversations and steady news coverage of the new hybrid workforce. It can also be described as multipurpose space.

But it’s not that simple – as strategic space planners will tell you. It’s easy to imagine portable walls, hotel desks, and collaboration tools for brainstorming. It is less likely that all those pieces will come together in a snap. Implementing new flex spaces relies on data, understanding when and how employees or students utilize buildings or common areas. Read on to find out common challenges in creating flexible, multi-purpose spaces on corporate or higher education campuses– and how to get ahead of them.

Challenges to Creating Multi-Purpose Workspaces

  • Operational Complexity: Multi-purpose spaces can be challenging to operate. Facilities teams may be called in for experimental or new set-ups and configurations depending on the activity. Once that happens, Strategic Space Planners must consider staffing – Is it a space that requires new or different staffing from an IT, security, or facilities perspective?
  • Technical Infrastructure: Flexing spaces often requires additional technical infrastructure, such as audio-visual equipment, lighting, and acoustics. Access to power is critical, and flexible spaces depend on enough options to power up from wherever employees or students are sitting, standing, or mingling.
  • User Needs: What do they really want?  This is the most obvious, but often the most challenging. It requires communication, and creativity. Different user groups must understand their vision for how they want to collaborate, or not, and which tools will help them make the most of their time in the corporate office, or Student Union. This requires a responsive point of contact within your organization, someone who understands how and when groups gather.

Massive Benefits to Multi-Purpose Spaces 

  • Cost Savings: Multi-purpose spaces often provide obvious cost savings – no leasing off-campus space for special events, no opening the library for all-night study if the Student Union is open at the same time, and no adding office administration space that sits empty on work-at-home days.
  • Collaboration: There are enough ‘new workplace’ studies available these days to tell you that Thursdays are the new Friday, or Monday is the new Tuesday, depending on where you look. But one thing every workplace innovator, hybrid work specialist, and occupant experience expert agrees on is that collaborative space is the number one priority for employees returning to the office. That means couches, cafes, whiteboards, write-on walls, and breakout rooms.
  • Community Building: What educators call the physical context of learning – everything from seated around tables or how far students are distanced from instructors or each other – factors into a sense of community and inclusion. The same is true for corporate workspaces, where cubicles provide a sense of ownership and privacy, but also isolate team members and make collaboration seem less likely. Flexible, dynamic spaces are credited with sparking more interactions.

To overcome challenges having to do with space requests versus actual need, and create multi-purpose rooms and buildings, strategic space planners find it valuable to rely on hard data, showing which groups utilize spaces and when. Knowing libraries are crammed during finals week is one thing, or that Tuesday is a popular day to commute to work. But making decisions about where to relocate, staff, power and assign resources requires understanding utilization patterns. This is one of the reasons so many companies and colleges invested in sensors, to try and determine which departments or employees were coming to work and when.

To understand how Lambent Spaces software provides utilization trends and patterns for consistent, actionable data, Book a Demo with one of our industry experts.

Natalie Cassinelli is the West Coast Director of Sales at Lambent and technology advisor. She works with stakeholders across Higher Education and Corporate Real Estate to empower strategic decisions enabled by actionable data.

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