Today, organizations and individuals can choose from a large number of different workspace and office types to accomplish many different work activities.
This is a long post but here is a quick summary:
This post covers the primary types of workspaces and offices available today along with the necessary basics of how employers, employees (individuals) and the self-employed use them.
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In 2020, organizations experienced a significant remote work tipping point where the majority of employees were “planning to work in a way that they hadn’t previously considered”.
This has shifted to the surface a growing need for employers to utilize more workspace options, reduce risk and costs while at the same time aligning with the needs of employees to provide more flexible work arrangements.
- Residence / Home Office
- Employer Managed Central, HQ, Campus, Satellite Offices
- Operator Managed Offices / Flex Space
- Serviced Offices, Executive Suites, Business Centers
- Coworking Spaces
- Virtual Offices
- Other (Café, library, outdoors, etc)
- Virtualized Offices
Residence / Home Office
For decades, there has been a growing number of organizations allowing people to work from home as teleworkers, telecommuters, remote workers, etc.
Ultimately it doesn’t have a direct cost unless a stipend, home office or technology budget, insurance cost, etc is needed or offered. Some governments are starting to force these especially if work from home is mandated instead of provided as an option.
The general consensus is that in order for work from home to succeed employers and employees need to work together to set up the right processes, expectations, trainings, the right workspace, implement technology, and more. The experience is also far different for certain types of work, cultures and personalities which needs to be considered.
The same can be said for remote working in other types of workspaces.
Like many workspace options, there are pros and cons to working from home.
With no commute, greater work life balance, and other benefits, working from home is generally a good option for people. However, it is not a perfect solution for everyone all the time and should be chosen by mutual agreement of the employer and employee.
Note: In some ways it is ideal that an employee can choose how they work best since trust is so critical for flexible work arrangements. However, there are many reasons such as compliance, liability, insurance, process, and other concerns that will need to be discussed in many cases before a new way of working will be implemented over the long run.
There are also a fair amount of challenges of working from home / working remotely including not having the right workspace equipment and furniture, members of the household interrupting focused work, general distractions, limited bandwidth, technology and compliance issues, loneliness, isolation, and more.
Some of these elements can be overcome with better technology, training, a different physical setup, etc, however, these challenges can also be overcome through alternative workspace options and work arrangements.
As mentioned above, some people thrive when working from home and others struggle. By providing other workspaces as options employees can better find where, how, and when they are most productive while building a greater balance between work and life.
It is also critical to add that working from home isn’t free. There will be additional costs of working from home such as power, water, bandwidth upgrades, etc as well as the potential for a reduction in pay or stipends received by commuters.
Note: Instead of a stipend for commuting into an office every day, there are often options for stipends for working from home or for working outside of the office some of the time in a coworking or other serviced office.
Employer Managed Central, HQ, Campus, Satellite Offices
The employer managed / traditional office market is still the norm. In this case an employer typically manages a leased or owned workspace where their employees must go to get work done. It is a large portion of commercial real estate world wide and filled with a wide variety of types, styles, designs, locations, prices, etc.
If leased, agreements tend to be longer, with a cheaper base rate than alternative workspace types, and often have less flexibility to scale up and down in space.
Accounting and tax changes such as (Ex. FASB Accounting Standards Update) continue to evolve which is pushing more employers to look for other workspaces options that provide lower risk, shorter lengths, full service, and other flexible arrangements.
In the 2010s – 2020+, there was also a renewed push to improve how offices are utilized by employees to increase productivity but also to attract and retain talent.
Instead of just existing to provide a physical place for work, offices are becoming more focused on activity-based workspaces, more collaborative environments, providing specific technology, and more.
Most workers tend to work the majority of the time in one of these types of offices and need to commute on average (in the US) for over 20 minutes each way. Commuting is known to reduce the productivity of employees, increase stress, and be an attributing factor to health issues over the long run.
In terms of work, many people work well in central office type environments.
However, the question remains whether this type of office is right for all work all the time.
It is clear that many employees are pushing for alternative and more flexible options such as primarily working from home or in a coworking space for various reasons. Whether it is to reduce the commute part of the week, take care of a child or parent, eat better, work out, or just to get more focused work done, employees are looking for a better balance between work and life.
After all, by providing more flexibility and workplace options, it is proven that employees gain in productivity, overall employee satisfaction, and wellness.
Operator Managed Offices / Flex Space
A flex space, flexible office, managed office operator works directly with organizations to determine the right location fit from their portfolio, build the right workspace, and / or manage the space and its services.
Often times these operators focus on the more traditional type of offices such as headquarters, central offices, etc where a larger group of employees from the same company work.
Organizations are able to add or remove space over time, fully customize the aesthetics and branding of the space, and have shorter lease lengths than traditional offices, all of which typically result in a more premium rate per square foot / meter.
If an employer doesn’t need to manage the space or provide office services, then they are free to support employees in other ways to hopefully improve overall productivity, wellness, and satisfaction.
Employees won’t see significant differences here compared to a traditional central office outside of maybe some services being offered, the design and aesthetics of the space.
Serviced Offices, Executive Suites, Business Centers
There are slight differences between these offices, however their main focus is on providing professional office space, services, amenities, possibly a full-time receptionist, furniture, IT support, and more at all-inclusive pricing.
Organizations pay for the amount of space they need and usually have more flexible pricing structures.
Branding and aesthetics are typically controlled by the operator and agreements are shorter term than more traditional, managed, and flex spaces.
The employer also does not need to focus on the operation or changing needs of workspaces even when expanding into new markets. Services can often be added or removed as needed.
These spaces are typically seen as more corporate and professional service focused. However, more startups are using these spaces due to the services and locations offered.
These workspaces are also often spread throughout the globe and often connected through networks that can allow for more location options throughout cities or while employees are traveling. This can reduce commuting time and provide an overarching level of location options, service and quality across the available spaces.
There are numerous different types of coworking spaces.
Coworking offers flexibility, community, and shared amenities similar to serviced offices. These workspaces also tend to be a cheaper option. In addition, the leases tend to be shorter and for many, a month to month agreement is normal.
Coworking was born out of smaller teams and individuals coming together to work, however, some coworking spaces also offer floors of space and team offices for larger groups and organizations.
There has also been a blurring of the lines between coworking spaces and serviced offices, however, the main differences usually involve the design of the space, location options in rural and urban, services offered, and often the community of people.
Coworking spaces predominantly focus a significant portion of space to shared workspace for many different businesses. However, they also offer private offices, dedicated spaces, hot desks, phone booths, meeting rooms and more to fit the needs of each person.
There are coworking spaces globally and some are connected through various passes, visas, alliances, and other arrangements that make it easier for people to use multiple spaces with one bill.
Each space also has a different culture and approach to providing support to businesses and people.
Rural and suburban coworking has been increasingly on the rise which will provide more support to those workers that live outside of cities but still want to work outside of the home in an office environment with a community of people.
These offices primarily focus on providing a physical address and on demand office services, amenities, technology, along with bookable meeting rooms when needed.
Generally the costs are much less for these offices compared to almost all other workspace options.
Although there is no leasing of physical space, virtual offices can provide reception, technology, mailing, or even meeting rooms for employees who telecommute, work from home, or work remotely and need a professional address to work with clients occasionally.
Hotels can be seen as workspaces, meeting rooms, coworking spaces, event centers and much more when we consider their role in meetings, business travel, tourism, conferences, and much more.
Depending on the chain or independent location, the offerings and costs vary tremendously.
There are new options being added each year to hotels that enable better working within hotel rooms, coworking spaces in hotels, lobby workspaces, and other workspaces throughout hotels globally.
Along with workspaces, hotels also often make the amenities of the hotel such as the pool, gym, showers, bars, and restaurants available to anyone working there.
Employer and Employee
People try to work almost anywhere. You can typically witness this in the local café, a library, airport or even outside in a park or on the beach.
Even though many of these can be popular options, it is important when working out in the open or in less regulated spaces such as these, to use privacy screens, limit working on sensitive work, use a vpn, and more.
For some organizations, these workplaces will not be allowed due to their more public nature.
For other organizations, they offer coffee and cafe stipends that support getting outside of the house to work and can be used for this type of workspace or in a coworking space.
There has been new technological solutions being brought to market the past few years including the virtualization of offices where a person can place an avatar into a virtual room, move the avatar around into different ‘workplaces’, knock on virtual doors, video and text chat, work on a whiteboard with others, and more.
In addition, new AR and VR tools are being developed that allow for people to meet ‘face to face’ without needing to physically travel somewhere.
However, with both of these, it is too early to know the expected timeframe of adoption and the maturity of the tech. There are also a number of reasons that some level of human interaction within physical offices will remain necessary and important for some time.
Although there are challenges and a fair number of objections to working in different ways and places, there is a growing interest and demand by knowledge workers for a greater flexibility in work and life.
When deciding on which workspace options are the right fit to help enable flexibility, there will be numerous stakeholders and things to consider such as budget, type of work, employee needs and demands, training, compliance, privacy, and security.
For this reason, one type of workspace or flexible offering does not fit all organizations, cultures, or person.