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The Evolution of Flex: A Conversation with Jacob Bates

coDesign recently had the pleasure of speaking with Jacob Bates, the Head of Flex by JLL at JLL. We spoke with Jacob about what flex spaces are, how flex space offerings have evolved in recent years and why companies have started to seek them out.

Jacob shared with our team that the meaning of flex has evolved with time. “If you look at the definition of flex, historically, short-term agreements is what it has meant. [Now], what we’re seeing is [flex referring to] multiple products from a physical space perspective and service offerings.” Today, a flex space is not just a suite in a WeWork with a short-term lease. It does include this, but also, so much more.

Jacob explained that the expansion of flex offerings has taken place because occupiers are craving something different to what they did in the past. Now, more than ever, they’re searching for an exceptional workplace experience. This is why Jacob feels that the phrase “flight to quality” (which we hear so often) somewhat misses the mark. In his view, what we’re currently experiencing in the commercial real estate market is a “flight to experience.”

Beyond selecting the right flex space, companies are now concerned with selecting the appropriate flexible services to accompany it. Jacob believes that asset owners should now be ready to offer concierge, food and beverage, wellness, and technology services to their occupiers. These services have historically been managed by people and workplace teams, but now they’ll be managed by building owners or flex space managers.

In the future, flexible workplaces may operate more similarly to hotels. “If I book a room in a hotel, I get fitness, I get wellness, I get concierge, I get food and beverage, I get my room,” shared Jacob. He believes that a company paying for a flex space should receive a similar experience and that this experience should be far more personalized than it is today. Jacob went on to share, “If [I am a building owner] and you walk into my building every day, I should know [that you drink] this kind of coffee, [that you work] out at this time of day and [that you talk] with these kinds of people…”

Companies of all sizes and in all industries are recognizing the value of flex spaces and services. Jacob shared with our team that while tech was one of the first industries to show an interest in flex offerings, companies in the finance and legal industries (spaces that typically operate more traditionally) have shown an interest as well. Biotech and life science organizations have too, and Jacob predicts that retail will soon follow suit.

Our conversation with Jacob left us feeling excited for the future of work. If organizations will have more flexible leases, more agile workspaces and a more personalized workplace experience, then things are looking bright!

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