A Place To Meet, A Place To Relax: What Members Want From Their Workspace

The survey found that basic lifestyle elements including relaxation spaces and outdoor areas are much more important to members than most operators think.
  • A recent survey from essensys and Instant Offices identified what exactly occupiers want from their workspace.  
  • During a recent webinar, a panel of workspace and tech experts discussed the results of the survey and how operators can add value to their spaces. 
  • The survey found that the top in-demand amenities are meeting areas (formal and non-formal), relaxation space, and outdoor space. 

What do occupiers want from their workspace? We all know they want more than desks and chairs. After all, you can get that at home for less than the cost of a coworking membership. Yet, lockdown aside, millions of people still choose an office over a home environment.

So what exactly do occupiers want from their workspace? And what might they be missing?

essensys and Instant Offices surveyed the US flexible workspace market to find out. On a webinar hosted by essensys in April 2020, a panel of workspace and tech experts discussed the results and offered perspectives on how operators can add value to their offering.

The panel featured:

A Brief Update on the Current Situation

Liz Elam initiated the discussion by updating participants on the current situation.

“Operators are in heads-down crisis management mode,” she said. “In Asia, people are starting to come back to work. We believe that because people have been sent to work from home, they’ve learned that it’s possible — but it’s not optimal. They are realising that they need a place to go to work. Home should be your haven, not your workplace.”

Elam added that there is likely to be a diversification of teams across multiple workspace locations, post-COVID, as companies work to maintain physical distancing while enabling collaboration. This, she suggested, could also enable people who are enjoying the lack of commuting to work closer to home, which in turn will lead to a surge in demand for suburban and rural workspaces.

Instant’s James Rankin noted that in the short-term they have seen a significant drop-off in demand for workspace globally.

However, with average rental lengths for flexible space around 6-9 months, the impact for operators has been lessened slightly; although those with “hyper flexible” models have been hit hardest.

“Long-term, larger companies are now coming to us in increasing numbers to understand how they can incorporate more flexibility into their portfolios going forward.”

On the tech side, James Shannon noted that the disruption in regular business activities is giving companies pause to think about their tech requirements.

“It allows our clients to evaluate their tech strategy and consider what tools they will need for distributed collaboration.”

Survey Findings: What Do Occupiers Want?

The research was conducted to understand the correlation between happiness and productivity, and to understand how the workplace environment can help, or hinder, workers’ satisfaction and performance.

These findings show demand for certain amenities, and how it varies by generation. Interestingly, regardless of the difference in age, the top in-demand amenities are:

  • Meeting areas (formal and non-formal)
  • Relaxation space
  • Outdoor space.

Furthermore, the research analysed the search terms that people use when searching for space. They included 24-hour access and security, bespoke branding, and showers.

This shows that although members want formal areas to conduct face-to-face business, they also want lifestyle elements, which relates to the disaggregated way in which we live and the lack of boundary between work and life.

Mismatch in What Operators Think Occupiers Want

According to the research, it’s all too common for operators to think they know what their clients or members want from their workspace.

Both operators and members agree that these amenities are important:

  • Formal meeting areas
  • Private space to concentrate and work
  • Food and beverage services

However there is a mismatch in these areas:

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  • Communal break-out space
  • Relaxation spaces
  • Concierge / front desk services
  • Access to other businesses
  • Outdoor space

Basic lifestyle elements including relaxation spaces and outdoor areas are much more important to members than most operators think.

However, gym and wellness facilities and child daycare are featured at the lower end of occupiers’ wishlists, which means these are likely considered niche requirements.

This shows how important it is to know your clients’ and members’ needs before investing in marketing, expensive search terms and workspace facilities.

“This information is very valuable,” noted Elam. “Occupiers aren’t looking for you to be a gym, or daycare. They don’t necessarily expect it. It’s more of a nice-to-have.”

Rankin added: “Those nice-to-haves are often highly promoted and are seen as USPs. But they’re not necessarily a core value. This could really influence your marketing.”

Where Does Tech Fit In?

We know reliable WiFi and connectivity is essential. But tech can go much further.

“The right tech can help spaces deliver a positive and memorable member experience,” said Shannon. “From meeting room access, to print, to WiFi, and other areas such as signage and access control – particularly during our current situation – there are so many areas where tech can remove friction and deliver an enhanced member experience.”

A positive, friction-free workspace experience enhances happiness and productivity, as occupants spend less time battling with inconveniences and more time focusing on their core role.

But, we’re not there yet.

In any workspace, WiFi and print are used the most, therefore these areas tend to cause the most pain points. “This shows how critical it is to have a holistic approach to tech,” added Shannon. The problem is that without seamless technology, community managers spend all their time troubleshooting for members, which reduces their capacity to focus on engaging their communities.

An example of this is door access control.

Part of the problem is lost or forgotten access cards, which causes inconvenience on both sides. For operators, it’s costly and time-consuming to replace lost cards, and for members it’s a frustrating inconvenience.

Then there is also the issue of members using access control to gain entry to empty meeting rooms to use as their own private office.

So-called “squatting” or “time theft” impacts meeting room revenue, and also impacts other members who have legitimately booked the space.

One solution is to use the occupant’s smartphone to tap for access rather than using a keycard. Not only does this reduce the likelihood of losing or forgetting the key (as we tend to carry our smartphones at all times), it also acts as a gateway for further innovation within the space.

“It starts with opening doors, but it can go much further,” said Shannon. “Using a smartphone is familiar. We can tap to open, tap to print, tap to pay for services, and so on.”

Plus, at a time when health concerns are heightened, this type of hands-free tech will enable people to open doors without having to use handles or push buttons.

Shannon added, “As we come out of the pandemic, it’s going to be more important than ever to understand how spaces are being used so we can design better, friction-free experiences.”

These solutions offer a real USP for flexible space operators, noted Rankin, and will give confidence to those looking to come back into the office – as well as those looking for an office that takes their health and wellbeing seriously.

If understanding the services that members want vs. what occupiers think they want is essential, then getting it right is mission critical, as it creates an experience that enhances happiness and productivity – and that’s what will keep members coming back.

“In this flex world, there are low barriers to entry to create a workspace,” added Rankin. “Unless you’re providing the right environment, members can, and will move. So it’s important to understand what drives them and what benefits they want.”

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