Miro Miroslavov, an accomplished entrepreneur and developer from Bulgaria, who founded OfficeR&D in 2015 with the aim of addressing the challenges of managing workspaces for rapidly growing, constantly changing companies. With a solid foundation in computer science and a love for engineering, Miro has helped develop a workplace management system that is ideal for the fast-paced, ever-shifting world of work. OfficeR&D now serves over 1,000 customers in more than 2,500 locations worldwide.
About this episode
As the need to adapt quickly to emerging trends becomes the mainstay, businesses should focus on preparing their workforce for the future. Embracing change by incorporating flexibility throughout workplace policies and strategies will be crucial to continue to evolve and succeed in the face of shifting business landscapes, technological advancements, and uncertain economic conditions.
What you’ll learn
- Explore the surge of flexible workspaces as a response to post-pandemic workstyle changes.
- Implement strategic habit work models to enhance productivity and teamwork within your organization.
- Understand the necessity of flexibility in the workplace in adapting to AI-induced shifts.
- Assess the importance of timing in today’s dynamic real estate industry landscape.
- Foster a culture of adaptability in your business to navigate emerging trends and thrive.
Frank Cottle [00:00:42] Welcome to the future of work. Podcast. We’re really excited to have you here today. And I guess I’ll start off our podcast today a little bit different. I’m not going to read your bio, I’m going to ask you to tell us a little bit about yourself. I’ve known you since you started your company, I’ve known you since you were working in one country and now you’re global. So you had a terrific path forward and have probably the best data set of anybody in the flexible workspace industry. So today we’ll be talking about trends and data a lot. So tell us a little bit about yourself and a little bit about OfficeRnD.
Miro Miroslavov [00:01:18] Thank you, Frank. First of all, thank you so much for having me here. I’m extremely excited to have this chat. We’ve been chatting for a long time and I’m hugely excited for this conversation. Quick background on myself and Officer and this. I’m originally from Bulgaria. So very far I’m a developer, I studied computer science and I consider myself engineer by heart and trait. And in 2015 I started Opsalindi with another mural because we really wanted to try and solve the complexity of managing a workplace that’s very suitable for fast changing, fast moving, dynamic companies. So we’ve been part of a super fast growing startup and we always felt like the office wasn’t necessarily managed according to what we wanted to be for when things change constantly. So we decided at some point in 2015 to build a new type of workplace management system that’s suitable for flexible working and flexible spaces in general. And ever since we’ve been quite successful. We have now more than 1000 customers across the globe, servicing more than 2500 locations around the world.
Frank Cottle [00:02:44] Well, in those locations are servicing 103 or 4500 clients each. So your reach is in the 5000 thousand virtual office and co working users easily. And I understand now, with remote work becoming so important to larger companies and government overall, that you also have begun to help larger Fortune 1000 style companies managing their remote workforce utilizing the systems that you’re built. So, as you’ve done all this and as I watched it emerge, where do you see the trends changing not just at the center’s level, but overall in the workplace and give us some numbers to back up whatever your claims might be. Where do you see the workplace moving
Miro Miroslavov [00:03:49] Yeah, that’s that’s the billion dollar question.
Frank Cottle [00:03:53] I think literally a billion billion dollar question.
Miro Miroslavov [00:03:59] Yeah, or even that trillion. I mean, it’s the, the commercial real estate in the office market is so huge and vast that it’s crazy. And the change that we are currently seeing is enormous. It’s scary, but at the same time it’s super exciting. So I think we are all scared about what will happen to those glass towers in the central business district. I think we live in an absolute in a world where things will change quite a bit in the next few years. So what we’re seeing today is that the demand for true flexible spaces, so core king spaces, service offices, business centers in general, is growing, which is the opposite of what’s happening in the more traditional office real estate world where we obviously see decline in occupancy rates. In the flexible world, we actually see an increase in occupancy rates. So we see more people actually adopting core working space and flexible workspaces than ever before. So at Oxide, we run something called Flex Index, which keeps an eye and tracks all the 2500 locations we are servicing and is essentially becoming a benchmark of the flex space industry at the moment. We see that things actually recovered to a point where the overall index is above the 2019 average, which we use as a trend setter, so pre pandemic levels. So at this stage for March, the Flex Index is at 5.1 points, which is actually more than the average for the entire 2019, which essentially means people use more flexible workspaces than they did in 2019, which is super exciting. And that’s across pretty much the entire spectrum of products in the flexible workspace industry. So that includes meeting space usage as well as private offices, dedicated desks, hot desks, and pretty much every product there is in a typical core king space is now actually used more than the pre pandemic levels, which is hugely exciting and we overall see a lot of opportunities for the future of flexible work.
Frank Cottle [00:07:03] Well, pulling back on a little history here, we’ve been seeing ourselves in the data that we track that the overall flexible workspace industry in terms of numbers of facilities, times Square footage, if you will, which is what equals customer service capacity, have been growing since about 2015, since the time you started your company at about 12% a year. And you say, oh, ten to 12%, that doesn’t sound like much. That’s the same percentage going back into the late ninety s and early two thousand s that the entire PC industry grew, right, faster than the mobile phone industry has grown. And there are two things I think we have to consider here when we talk about this growth, because I’m going to double it, okay? That’s the growth of the independent part of the industry, the outside part of the industry. But what we’re not tracking or seeing effectively as we use that number is the number of companies that are internally remodeling themselves to copy or to operate in the same way as the flexible workspace industry. The total number of people that are moving into flex is massive. And if you just look at one major campaign says a four day work week, we’ve all heard of the four day work week. Some of us make it, some of us don’t, some of us like a three day work week, but we all know that equals 20% vacancy factor in utilization of space, conventional space that was already only used 40% to 60% efficiently. So the ripple effect that we’re going through right now in flexibility and the absolute requirement for all companies to incorporate a high degree of flexibility in their utilization of space and their management of people to use space effectively is beyond revolutionary. So I think we are if there’s such a thing as a good tsunami, I think we are in the crest of that that wave and, and have been for the last couple of years without really being recognized. And yet you and your company are able to see these patterns much more clearly than most. Right?
Miro Miroslavov [00:09:55 ] That’s. You’re right, Frank. Actually then that gave us a really interesting at some point to introduce a second product because we started as a co working space management company and then throughout the Pandemic, the tsunami, as you said, was so big and pretty much every company out there needed or ended up adopting, flexible working, which we call habit working or any combination of these. So essentially we had the opportunity to get our co working product and turn it into a habit work management product and it’s been hugely successful. So we have both customers on that front as well helping pretty much any organization out there that need to or want to work in a flexible way in a really similar fashion to how Corking space operates. So you’re right that Corking really changed the world for good and now to a certain degree COVID accelerated that trend. The adoption is massive. I think the latest reports are very clear and concise that the approximation of four organizations using now flexible schedules is like 70% which is enormous amount of people.
Frank Cottle [00:11:33] Well, it’s funny, as we enter a phase of economic uncertainty, we’ve come out of the pandemic more or less. Everybody would probably agree to that, at least economically. We’ve left that behind us as a phase, but now we’re in a phase of both geopolitical and economic uncertainty. I know you where you live in Sofia, you feel this very acutely what’s happening with the war in Ukraine, now in Sudan and you’re kind of sandwiched there. So there is an economic uncertainty and a political geopolitical uncertainty that’s going on right now. How does that impact from this growth trend that you’re seeing? Does it cause people to hunker down and pull away or does it cause people to get more flexible and create new ways of getting things done? I know, and I’ll use our own experience in Ukraine as an example. We work with a variety of technology companies that are based in Ukraine and have friends over there and a variety of writers, content creators for the all work group that are there. And we see them deploying all sorts of creative processes just to stay working, just to stay working during their crisis. So that’s an acute crisis. We have pressures from inflation, we have pressures from look at all the layoffs that all the major companies are going through, et cetera. How do you see that impacting, the way people will work in the future overall?
Miro Miroslavov [00:13:28] Yeah, I’ll add to the list of uncertainty factors even another layer, which in my opinion is probably ten times bigger than everything we’ve seen so far. And the changes are huge and that’s AI. So we are now taking on top of overall COVID and all the changes and uncertainty that it created in the entire world, but more specifically in the commercial real estate. Then on top we’ve got an enormous economic uncertainty and now we are having also AI coming, which is I think, going to create such a massive change in our societies that it’s just unbelievable. I think all of these trends lead us essentially the need for even bigger flexibility in the workplace and in how we work overall. The future of work requires another level of flexibility in order for organizations big and small to be able to adapt to all those massive changes. We’re not talking about small, iterative changes here. We’re talking about real big change of society. Starting from COVID people completely unwilling to commute hours to get to the central business district. There is massive resentment, of course. I mean, no one wants to commute hour and a half to get to a massively crowded place and then another hour and a half go back home and then be completely exhausted from this commute. No one wants that, right? That’s a huge change. And then AI is going to reshape everything and the layoffs and economic uncertainty that all of these are creating. So overall, I think we need more flexibility. But something also that we are very clearly seeing from both sides of our customer base, those that provide space and those that are using space is that there is a certain need of space. So people are also sick of staying home, by the way, and organizations are also realizing that working from home doesn’t necessarily work from all organizations. And most companies are moving from a completely 100% flexible work schedules to a more structured habit work models where you have some patterns that require people to actually collaborate and be more thoughtful about working together. So we certainly see a lot more structured habits working across the board and we see a lot more organizations moving in that direction, which also, as I said, space is a must. There is a ton of research now that companies that still get together are growing faster in a way different, more successful, and et cetera. So there is now real research pointing that the office, or a office is important and people are productive when they spend quality time together. That doesn’t mean going to the office five days a week, nine to five, whatever. I think that’s dead. It’s over. But it means to be thoughtful, and we need to spend time together because we can be more creative together. And I think especially now with changing technology, this will be even more important.
Miro Miroslavov [00:18:50] Yes.
Frank Cottle [00:18:51] Local digital nomads.
Miro Miroslavov [00:18:54] Yes.
Miro Miroslavov [00:22:16] Yeah, actually, I can give you a clue. I think it’s interesting. And actually, I would love to hear your thoughts. So here’s my question to you. So we have customers, Allwork.Space, that have hundreds of companies on a waiting list. Can you imagine where they are based? In suburbs.
Frank Cottle [00:22:41] Suburbs.
Miro Miroslavov [00:22:42] They’re in the suburbs. Yes.
Frank Cottle [00:22:45] We’ve been saying since about 2017, or 16 or 17, maybe even that. There’s the old adage in real estate, location, location, location. We’ve been saying for years, no, it’s timing, timing, timing. All locations are good at the right time, or all locations are bad at the wrong time. So when we look at that, we’ve been saying that you want to develop a new project, a new facility on a bike path, not on a metropath. We’ve been saying that since about 2016 or 17. And the trending that we see and have seen not just from the Pandemic, but that we were seeing beforehand, also led us to that strong belief. And I think large companies in the industry, such as Regis IWG Spaces, they were relocating big percentages of their portfolio into secondary and tertiary markets at that time as well. So they saw the same trending. And it makes sense. It makes sense. Cities are expensive. Cities are dirty, cities are crowded, cities have crime. Why do I want to commute an hour and a half to get to all that stuff? I want to jump on my bike and pedal through on a nice bike path for 15 minutes to get to a nice little office where I’ve got three coworkers for a team meeting once a week or twice a week, as opposed to have to get on a train.
Miro Miroslavov [00:24:29] And I think AI is coming exactly at the right time, because here’s the story. I think overall, what AI will make and will change in the world is that people will indeed become a lot more productive and people will be able to create a lot more with a lot less. So essentially, we won’t need that big of a team in order to achieve and build great products. If you look at the big tech companies today, they are enormous, they’re huge. They’re like tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people. And it’s hard to get these people together. It’s hard. So many levels to manage this. While with AI, I think overall we’ll be able to build products and things and new technology a lot faster and we need less people overall. So entrepreneurs will be extremely empowered to create awesome things with less. So imagine you live in Alpharetta, which is a paradise on earth near Atlanta, and you have a small team there. You go to your local corking space, as you said, you bike, you go buy local coffee and everything is nice and cute and small and you know your people and you’re a team of 510, 20 people and you can still create a world class, massively, successful whatever product you’re excited about. That’d be amazing. I mean, that’d be phenomenal. You don’t have to jump on the train or sit in the car for hours and end up in a super crowded space.
Frank Cottle [00:26:22] No, I would agree with that. I think as we start running out of little time here and think to it that when we look at the combination of people, place and technology, people are always equally important. Place is becoming less important and technology is becoming more important. So we still have to have those three components, but the percentage and the ratios and how we use them is changing. And that’s something that we, I think as we look towards the future of work, that’s the change that we will see coming up as people place in technology, in different ratios in the future as technology becomes more important and place becomes less important.
Miro Miroslavov [00:27:10] Right.
Frank Cottle [00:27:13] Thank you very much for your time today. I really appreciate it. Look forward to seeing your continued success with OfficeRnD and helping in every way we can and just keep doing the good work that you’ve been doing.
Miro Miroslavov [00:27:27] Thank you, Frank. And you saying please keep doing what you are doing. You’ve been a legend in our industry and enormous source of information and great insight. So please keep doing what you’re doing too.
Frank Cottle [00:27:44] We got it. Take care, my friend. Bye bye.