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What is Flex Space and Who Does it Benefit? A Conversation with Charlie Morris

If you work in the workplace or corporate real estate worlds, you’ve certainly heard the terms “flex space,” and “flexible workplace solutions.” These terms have gained traction over the last year - and as a result of COVID - but despite their regular usage, it seems that their definitions remain somewhat clouded. For some, the term “flex space” conjures up images of coworking environments that cater to individuals, while others picture WeWork-type spaces with private suites and communal amenities. So, which definition is correct, or are they both? To gain clarity, the coDesign Team turned to Avison Young.

First, we listened to Avison Young’s podcast episode, “Flex Space: Inside the Changing World of Flex,” with host Mariam Sobh. In this particular episode, Mariam works to more clearly define flex space, and to do so, she speaks with Jillian Brown. At the time of recording, Jillian was Avison Young’s Sr. Consultant for Flexible Office Solutions, but now she works as the Director of Global Occupier Business Development. On the podcast, Jillian shared that flexible space is “...anything that’s pre-built, plug-and-play, [or] turnkey [and that’s] offered on anywhere from a one-hour timeframe, to one day, to two to three years…” The podcast defines flex spaces as ready-to-use work environments that come with shorter leases, but it left our team wondering what these various workplaces actually look like.

To learn more about their physical form, our team turned to Charlie Morris, Avison Young’s Practice leader for Flexible Office Solutions (FOS). We had an amazing discussion with Charlie, who eats, sleeps, and breathes everything related to flexible working. Charlie shared that flex spaces can take many forms ranging from Agile Suites (think spec suites that are turnkey with regard to construction, furniture, and technology) to Meeting/Event spaces (that can be booked for conferences, all-hands meetings, and other corporate events). In fact, Charlie shared that Avison Young generally uses five primary space types to categorize flex space: Executive Suites, Coworking, and Hybrid Coworking spaces, and additionally, the fastest growing categories of Agile Suites and On-Demand Meeting/Event spaces (mentioned previously). These days, there are numerous flexible office solutions that cater to companies with varying needs!

So why are flex spaces gaining popularity, and who do they benefit? Charlie shared that flex spaces are ideal for companies that “...don’t know what they’re going to be when they grow up…,” either as a company or within a specific market, and therefore, don’t wish to commit to a long-term lease. In his view, they’re a great option for organizations entering a new market, and they can also benefit fast-growing companies that will need a larger space soon, but not just yet. Flex spaces are “ longer…just for the startups, the freelancers, the solopreneurs…,” shared Charlie. Now, large companies also see their benefit, and it is their interest that has driven the evolution and availability of flex space. Institutional owners are now recognizing that legacy office supply delivery will no longer suffice, as moving forward, companies will demand flexible workplace options.

Regardless of whether you’re looking for a new workplace or are stuck in an existing lease, coDesign recommends that you understand the rapid evolution of the flexible economy and explore the many flexible workplace solutions that are out there. Perhaps you’ve yet to realize that flex spaces are in your future, but data shows that it’s likely they are!

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