Working in a COVID-19 World
Booqed survey finds demand for flexible workspace on the rise
By David Wong
This week, we had an inquiry for a company seeking to urgently relocate its call center to an alternative location as part of its COVID-19 contingency plans. The question was similar to many we have received over the past two months and is just the tip of the iceberg.
It goes without saying that the COVID-19 virus outbreak has impacted everyday life, from how we interact with each other, to attendance at events, to how we work.
We talk about this as being a ‘VUCA’ moment: a time of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Businesses have had to quickly implement measures to overcome the management challenges during this time of uncertainty and to ensure business continuity.
In an online survey BOOQED conducted at the end of February with 60 senior managers responsible for their companies’ workspace decisions, 60% of them confirmed that the virus outbreak had significantly impacted work patterns.
Companies are exploring alternative workspaces to split teams or move teams to interim premises as a response to circumstances like lockdowns or employee infections. They are also interested in alternative workspaces for employees who are unable to work from home. This shift is evident in the surge of inquiries for flexible workspace.
This increased interest in flexible workspaces may also be due to businesses looking to overcome the lack of collaboration between team members working remotely from home and the lack of Internet/information security when working from home or in public spaces–factors cited in the survey.
Some companies are also exploring flexible workspace as a way to tighten their belts when the economic outlook is so bleak. Flexible workspace allows for shorter tenures and is more cost-efficient, so businesses are not burdened with traditional multiple-year office lease terms. It also allows them to increase their space needs when times improve, or down-size should the economic environment get worse.
This boost in demand for flexible workspace is consistent with the survey findings, where 39% of respondents said that management requirements for workspace have changed. 49% of respondents also said that their employees’ expectations for workspace have changed, and 61% of respondents believe that it is highly likely that their employees will need to work remotely more often in 2020.
Looking ahead, the three priorities cited by the survey respondents for workspace are:
- Digital infrastructure
In addition to flexibility in lease terms from one hour to 12 months, and the configuration of office from collaboration set-ups to hot desks and private offices, there is also flexibility in locations. Companies planning for better business continuity may select multiple sites across the country. Hence, employees need not commute too far in the event of a need to work from an alternative location.
In terms of security and digital infrastructure, flexible workspaces offer a ‘plug and play’ solution, where companies can move in and get to work immediately. Flexible workspaces also offer greater Internet security, where companies can implement additional security protocols within the flexible workspace.
This pandemic has accelerated companies’ adoption of flexible workspace, and there is also a greater appreciation that flexible workspace applies to all companies, not just for start-ups.
We may not be able to “cancel 2020” as NBA player Lebron James said. But even as the pandemic unfolds and no one can predict when it will be over or if it will be the future norm, there is no better time than now for companies to reevaluate their workspace needs and priorities.
About the Author
David is the Co-Founder and CEO of BOOQED. BOOQED is a digital marketplace for clients to find and landlords to monetize short-term unused business spaces. BOOQED’s mission is to make every space accessible and productive for business.