Flexible workspaces have been the solution for a huge number of companies during the turbulent Covid-19 times, and this will only increase into 2023. 

Jane Sartin

Jane Sartin

Based on lessons from hundreds of Flexible Space Association members across the UK, 2023 is expected to bring five major changes.

First, there will be an evolution of hybrid offices as ‘brands’. Hybrid is here to stay – the proportion of workers in hybrid roles has been rising, while the proportion of those working from home exclusively has fallen throughout 2022, according to ONS figures.

Workspaces can do a lot of the heavy lifting in helping businesses adapt to hybrid working, including creating office space designed to be shared and easily adaptable for different businesses on different days. One of our members, UBC, has even created hUBClub, a separate brand for hybrid offices, showing its growing importance and the fact that people now select their office spaces based on working a hybrid model.

Workspaces can do a lot of the heavy lifting in helping businesses adapt to hybrid working

Second, co-working is expected to move to the next level. As a solution for small businesses and entrepreneurs offering affordable space, a working buzz and ready-made peers, co-working could see desk spaces used in different ways, with a growing number of providers offering not just day passes, but specific time allocations, including hourly access.

This could be linked to early-morning and evening working, catering to early birds and night owls, with accompanying changes to the environment. If customer demand continues to grow, spaces will be adapted to accommodate a range of people using them during different periods.

Third, hospitality will increasingly push back. The cliché of the coffee shop worker is being challenged as the hospitality industry moves to stop ‘table-hoggers’. British professional coaching and etiquette company Debrett’s has even introduced a café etiquette into its famous guide this year, reminding people that hospitality businesses need to make money, so stretching out one coffee while you work for several hours is not good practice.

Co-working space shutterstock_1646993932 BAZA Production

Source: shutterstock / BAZA Production

Laptop bans are becoming increasingly common – my local coffee shop introduced one last month. In 2023, there will be more delineation with dedicated spaces for work – even those attached to cafés – to allow you to get your flat white, but take it to enjoy at a dedicated workstation, not restaurant tables.

The fourth trend involves new technology, which is likely to become accessible to all providers. Tech to monitor the use of space and flow through a building, and smart tech such as sensors, will no longer be the preserve of the largest operators. This will be increasingly used by the smaller businesses to continually adapt their spaces for efficiencies and to suit a changing workforce, as technology shows which parts of their office are in regular use and which parts could be adapted to be used more efficiently.

The 15-minute commute

Finally, the 15-minute commute will come into the balance. A 15-minute city is a residential, urban concept in which most daily necessities can be accomplished by either walking or cycling from residents’ homes.

IWG broke new ground with its fascinating 15 Minute Commute study in November 2020, in which 77% of employee respondents said a place to work closer to home would be a must-have for their next job move. With COP27 taking place in Egypt, the idea of the environmentally friendly, sustainable, health-enhancing 15-minute city is finding support worldwide.

New, hyper-local providers have been emerging in rural areas and smaller town centres over the past couple of years. But some of these have already been casualties, as people return to more standard working arrangements.

There is not yet a critical volume of hyper-local coverage across the country, and it is too early to be sure if this will be commercially viable enough to be a permanent part of the flexible workspace mix.

I’ve never known a greater time of change in workspace design, based on us navigating pandemic working, wholesale change in office behaviour and continual adaptation to the new normal.

With fresh financial headwinds and a sector ever ready to innovate, I’m interested to see what surprises 2023 will bring.

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Jane Sartin is executive director of the Flexible Space Association. She will be speaking at Property Week’s WorkSpace conference on 21 November.