Even before the covid shutdowns, there was the WeWork melt down, so it was not overly pessimistic a year ago to suspect the flex office business wouldn’t survive the pandemic. However, just like movie theaters, flex offices are still here. And, notes Julie Felgar, owner of Venture X Arlington, flex office spaces are well positioned to benefit from the growing flex scheduling trend that blends time in the office and working from home.
Prior to “the covid”, millions of office workers longed to work from home. After 18 or 20 months of working from home, millions of those same workers miss the chatty coffee breaks, laughs at lunch, and general conviviality of the office. We asked Julie Felgar about the flex office business, why it is doing so well now, and how she sees its future.
There had been some conversation about the coronavirus pandemic possibly putting an end to the flex office business. How is the industry actually doing?
Julie Felgar: No question that Covid out a damper in the industry. However, ultimately, the new work-life balance approach that has come out of this time period will actually accelerate the industry. Flexible office space fits in perfectly with the hybrid work environment. Demand is on the rise again, led by the areas that were less stringent on Covid lockdowns.
What do people get from a flex office space that they can’t duplicate, or at least can’t duplicate easily, working from home?
Julie Felgar: Our members want to be in a larger work community. They want to be able to meet new people and grow connections. They also feel that spending a few days a week outside their homes makes them more productive. They also want quiet, privacy and amenities. The older style of co-working will not work for the future needs of the professional.
Flex office spaces are associated with startups and early stage companies. Is that an accurate assessment? Are larger, more established companies utilizing flex office space?
Julie Felgar: The biggest growth in flex office space pre-pandemic was actually from the larger companies. They saw the huge benefits to not having to own real estate or have long term leases. While we still have many smaller companies and individuals coming in, the larger companies are very interested. Even the federal government is starting to take flex office space very seriously. No one wants the long commutes anymore. People are eyeing flexibility as something attainable now.
How do you foresee the disruption in work patterns caused by the pandemic affecting the market for flex office space going forward?
Julie Felgar: Only positive in this regard. This industry provides exactly what companies and individuals are looking for – complete flexibility and shared amenities that are far nicer and less expensive than anything they could do for themselves.