English transcript available below
Working in a “flex office” means that you don’t have an assigned office space. Instead, every morning, you need to find an available space, set up, and clear the space at the end of the day so that the space is free for someone else the next day. The flex office is the opposite of having an assigned, permanent office space.
The subject has gotten a lot of buzz lately as it raises questions of employee wellbeing and the financial implications for employers.
The flex office represents a non-assigned workstation, be it in open space or in traditional, closed offices. Sharing the workstation allows for companies to reduce the amount of space they dedicate to each employee, therefore reducing the amount of space they need to rent and the amount they spend on real estate- often the second highest expense after salaries. Many large companies have already transitioned to the flex office model: Orange, BNP Paribas, AXA, Peugeot, and Bouygues Telecom, to name a few.
So, who is the flex office for, and why should employers put it in place?
Who is the flex office for? Not everyone
This is what we uncovered in our latest study, conducted in 2021 with a population of office workers, the goal of which was to identify what people are looking for in their post-COVID-19 office space.
The numbers reveal a close relationship between socio-professional factors and the way that employees see their office space.
Only 5% of those surveyed consider the flex office as ideal, with almost 80% preferring assigned offices. In general, men are more interested in the flex office than are women.
This opinion on the flex office isn’t shared by all, however- managerial staff were more likely to prefer the flex office compared to non-managerial staff. This difference is linked to the reasons that lead us to frequent the office. While managerial staff tend to see the office as a place to socialize, non-managerial staff see it as a place to focus and use resources.
These different motives highlight the necessity of adapting work modalities to the functions of different employees.
Our results highlight that:
The office is a material, tangible resource and an infrastructure for those whose homes are ill-suited to working from home
The office is a social resource for those whose jobs rely on leading teams and making connections between colleagues
Why do it and why are we talking about it?
The flex office is becoming popular in the midst of the digital economy and sharing economy revolutions. Today, we are talking about this as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, which forced us into remote work. This was to the joy of some- but to the chagrin of others.
The flex office is becoming an option for employers who are noticing more and more empty offices with the rise of remote work, and for whom real estate expenses are a major concern. Combining the flex office and remote work for a hybrid work model can be an ideal solution to reduce real estate expenses.
As a result, companies that offer remote work are considering their next move. The choice isn’t unanimous: the flex office doesn’t work for everybody and the financial side is a key factor. So will it be a revolution in how we work? Or merely a fad? The flex office has become a major human resources challenge.
Take a look at the Workplace Management Chair website for more information.