The serviced office industry has been around for a long time and business centers used to be the most commonly known type of serviced office. In recent years, however, with coworking gaining popularity and professionals demanding flexibility, more people began to distance themselves from the concept of an ‘office’, giving rise to the term “flexible workspace”.
This shift creates both a problem and an opportunity for our industry, and we should dispel the notion that serviced offices and flexible workspaces are two entirely different things. Candidly the concepts of ‘separate but equal’ died in the 60’s and, in today’s social workplace society, the simple concept of inclusion is a much more practical philosophy that all elements of our industry need to embrace.
With a work revolution underway, there’s no denying many factors in the industry have changed. The market’s needs are different today than they were twenty years ago, and operators of all types have had to adjust to this change in order to stay afloat; also leading to the creation of new types of serviced workspaces, coworking among them.
Yet, regardless of the type of office and regardless of what you call the industry, the biggest player remains the same: the client. Which is why it’s important to address this divorce of serviced office vs flexible workspace that exists within the industry.
Truth is, serviced office or flexible workspace, business center or coworking space, the goal remains the same: to provide a space with the necessary tools, infrastructure, and support that any particular business or individual needs to carry out their line of work.
Needless to say, different lines of work have different requirements and needs. Psychologists aren’t likely to have an office in an open or shared workspace for privacy reasons, just as an entrepreneur seeking to network isn’t likely to set up in a closed door office. But, this doesn’t mean that workspaces should be exclusively open or closed.
Professionals have started to realize that open spaces have their downsides, just like private spaces do. A crossover between business centers and coworking spaces could be massive for the industry; hybrid models have started to appear and proven to be successful. Clients are seeking flexibility, and flexibility doesn’t equate to open spaces and shared desks; to be a truly flexible workspace and serviced office operators need to start offering the best of both ‘worlds’.
Simply put, without clients needing serviced offices of any kind, the industry wouldn’t exist. Yet, what good is the elevator speech if it can’t properly market what it is that the industry offers? Currently, the only operators benefiting from the industry’s fragmentation are the so called ‘big fish’.
In order for the industry to keep growing and for local and independent operators to thrive in it, it’s necessary to create global recognition of the whole of the industry, and not just a sector. If clients can’t grasp the full scope of what the industry offers, then the biggest player is being left out and the opportunity to “win” (grow, succeed, create recognition) becomes less plausible.
Some efforts have started to change this around. Recent ones include Alliance Virtual Offices campaign to change the Wikipedia page on virtual offices, and the Alliance Business Center Network (ABCN) partnering with the Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC) to host the first ever industry-wide conference.
It’s time operators of all types work together and nurture the industry; as mentioned above, the crossover between the sectors can have massive implications and unless we do that, the industry will suffer from monopolization and will lose its main focus: the client.
If you are leading an effort or are part of one trying to change this around, let us know!
*Disclaimer: Officing Today’s parent company is the Alliance Business Centers Network.