This weekend, your local community center is hosting a wedding. Next weekend there’s a concert. You’ve also been there for a farmer’s market, craft fair, and a town hall meeting. Needless to say, a little of everything happens at the community center. It’s a flexible space.
The concept is the same for a flexible office space. It’s a workplace designed to accommodate whatever type of work you need to accomplish. But office space flexibility isn’t just about the space or how you use it—it’s about the dynamic it introduces to your workplace. Flexible workplaces promote adaptability, which enables work to get done better, faster, and more efficiently.
Flexible office space explained
Also known as “flexispace,” flexible work arrangements create dynamic environments. They’re comprised of everything you’ll find in a traditional office—desks, chairs, phones, computers—arranged in a way that’s highly versatile. The concept is to accommodate the diverse needs of workers. A single area of the office is a group workspace today, a presentation area tomorrow, a project staging area next week, and so on.
Flexible workspaces are scalable. An office may include several flexible work areas or the entire workplace may benefit from a flexispace design.
Flexible workspace elements
While flexible workplaces include the essential elements of traditional offices, they’re practicality is forward-thinking. Because they incorporate elements of shared workspaces, activity-based workspaces, and open office floor plan concepts, a few critical elements govern flexible office space trends:
- Open plan concepts. Flexible workspaces need a baseline open concept to be successful, since the agility of the design stems from a lack of physical barriers. Open concept plans also offer the best square-foot-per-occupant efficiency.
- Breakout spaces. Despite the collaborative nature of flexispace, employees need opportunities to work in smaller groups or by themselves. They’re a quick departure from the generally noisy, fast-paced, agile environment.
- Quiet zones. Quiet provides opportunities for privacy and focused thinking. Quiet zones are a must-have to offset the busy hum of open spaces. Just make sure they’re not constantly locked down by the same employees or groups.
- Touch points. These are overflow areas to accommodate additional staff, temp workers, and on-site partners. They ensure a fixed space to work, without relegating employees to an under-utilized area or subjecting them to constant shuffling as the workplace adapts.
- Shared resources. Regardless of who’s working where, everyone needs access to shared resources. The copy machine, break room, and other general-use office assets must be accessible to everyone—regardless of how they’re working.
Together, these core elements make up flexible workspaces. They offer enough space for everyone to work in whatever capacity they need. They’re the secret to why your community center is able to do so much with the space it has.
The benefits of flexibility
As mentioned, flexibility induces adaptability. Given a diverse range of workspace types, employees gravitate to the type of space they need on any given day, for any given project. They meet for a project kick-off in a collaborative space, then break off with their team to plan the details. The rest of the week involves bouncing back and forth between breakout spaces, quiet zones, and collaborative spaces.
Flexible workplaces offer a happy medium between a single concept and remote work. Employees can’t work exclusively in an open office, but they don’t need the complete freedom of working from home or a coworking space. Flexispace puts all essential workplace types in one office or area, letting employees decide how they want to work.
How to introduce workplace flexibility
The philosophy of flexible spaces isn’t defined by the space itself—it’s realized by utilizing it. You can’t just reorganize your office and call it “flexible.” Employees must learn to use the space they need within the context of a flexible workplace.
The best way to create a flexible workplace culture is to clearly delineate different workspaces and explain them to employees. Then, let them realize the benefits on their own. Your workforce is smart. They’ll quickly realize why it’s better to collaborate in an open office area and work by themselves in a breakout space or at a touch point. It’ll take time to adjust to the versatility, but employees will realize its benefits as the workplace naturally conforms to their habits and tasks.
Workplace professionals are smart to include all types of spaces in a flexible office—or at the very least, agile spaces capable of conforming to different expectations. Successful flexible work environments are those that don’t leave employees looking for a place to work; they simply provide it. And, with any luck, your office will become its own version of a community center.
Keep reading: the ins and outs of flexible workspace.