In the latest episode of PropCast, Craig Hughes, CEO of partnerships and John Williams, global CMO at The Instant Group join Blackstock Consulting’s founder Andrew Teacher to discuss the changing market for workspaces and the importance of choice and flexibility in the future of offices.
In a post-pandemic world, The Instant Group’s Hughes and Williams believe flexibility is the driving force behind the office of the future.
“The world changed dramatically since the pandemic, there needs to be as much choice as possible in the life-work balance,” says Craig Hughes.
“The market is in a state where the hotel market was 20 years ago. Rather than just relying on several key brands, there’s now a platform for independent markets,” adds John Williams, bringing a parallel between the business model of The Instant Group, which acts as a platform for flexible office spaces, and Airbnb, which revolutionised holiday accommodation.
The pandemic forced the world to think differently about something that was once so ubiquitous, it barely considered reflecting on – going to the office. With little focus put on workspace previously, Hughes claims that one of the most prevalent questions companies face now after the pandemic and as the focus on flexibility in workplaces grows is essentially finding the most optimal solution regarding costs and accessibility.
“Was real estate ever on a CEO’s agenda?” he wonders. “It is now.”
“Real estate is about experience. What is that experience like, and why is the office a place you want to be rather than have to be?” he asks. “Why does the experience outweigh the cost and the hassle of commuting? These are the mental equations used to ascertain the validity of the workplace.”
Providing the world’s largest marketplace for flexible offices, The Instant Group is the mediator between flexible workspace providers and prospective tenants. Flexible workspaces are an increasingly popular approach to offices that allows layout, size, furnishings and contract length to be quickly changed to suit the specific needs of different companies.
In a world where every sector is becoming more flexible and in-demand workers gravitate towards those companies that best accommodate their needs, the businesses that take into account the wellbeing of their employees are most likely to succeed.
In that light, Hughes claims that the question companies are now asking is: “What is the cost if you don’t retain people?”.
Hughes and Williams explain that flexible office renting does not only focus on optimising the wants and needs of businesses and their employees, but contributes to innovation in many other ways. Transparency of pricing is one of them.
While comparing flexible office renting to traditional office contracts, Williams argues that the system of pricing used in flexible space is significantly more transparent.
“In the workspace market, for any tenant of any size it’s hard to factor in what you’re buying,” he explains. “In flex space you pay for it when you turn your key in the door and once you’re in. It is what it is.”
Environmental impact is another burning question that businesses in any industry must consider. Williams explains that a flexible model makes meeting green targets easier by being transparent to its customers about the carbon footprint different office spaces leave.
“Does working from home have a greater environmental impact than going to an office building that is carbon friendly?” Hughes asks.
He explains how thanks to the growing role of technology and access to data in the industry, tenants can manage their space in a more environmentally friendly way, which may actually beat working from home – commute included – for being green.
With flexible workspaces only constituting one percent of the global office market as of now, Hughes emphasises that companies like The Instant Group does not aim to fight the traditional model of offices, but simply wants to provide an alternative. Williams believes the next challenge The Instant Group faces is to expand the brand and win over multinational corporations, to potentially IPO the business in the next few years.
“The platform’s there, it’s already the biggest – it’s about making sure the brand is out there and scaling quickly to show people how much we can grow beyond IPO,” he says, looking forward to the company’s next milestones.