Coworking, serviced office or hybrid: how to find the right flex space?

Flexible office space is trending. But what are companies looking for? Coworking atmosphere? Contractual flexibility? Often this has to be clarified first.

October 01, 2019

Flex space is going from strength to strength, with providers of flexible office spaces continuing their rapid expansion in the largest markets for office properties in Germany: the “big 7” cities of Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Cologne, Munich and Stuttgart. This type of space has experienced annual growth of over 30 percent in recent years. A particularly large share can be attributed to providers of hybrid spaces, which combine the traditional idea of a serviced office with the modern stimuli of coworking spaces.

Potential lessees now have a choice of three different types of flex space. Whether companies which just need additional office space quickly and for a specified period, those which need to accommodate project teams, freelance workers or small corporate teams consciously looking for exchange – there is an ideal solution for everyone. And this is increasingly becoming possible outside of the cities hyped for their flex space offerings, too, with providers also tapping into new locations, known as “secondary cities”. Germany is predestined for success in this regard, as its polycentric economic structure provides numerous markets in many smaller locations. Indeed, the country hosts 80 cities with over 100,000 inhabitants, and almost 50 cities have more than one million square metres of office space.

As a result, users have many additional options. Smaller cities are not only home to the usual suspects, but also numerous regional providers, while the main flex space hotspots also play host to new players with new concepts. Knotel and The Instant Group are expanding in the German market by focussing on individualisation and branding, offering managed flex space as a service.

Companies looking for flex space solutions are therefore spoilt for choice. Andree Scherer, Leader Flex Germany at JLL, will help you find the right providers and spaces.

Andree, how do you help companies find the right flex space?

There is now a truly vast choice in this sector, with around 400 flex space providers operating in Germany alone. This begins with the basic type of offer. What does the company need? Is it simply looking for flexible space with a short-term lease commitment to cover the conventional office requirements? Then a serviced office is probably the right call here. However, those looking to try out or even establish a new work culture might be better served with concepts from the coworking sector.

The main issue is finding out what a company actually wants when it begins looking for flex space. It also needs to be discussed in advance whether the plans really suit the company’s culture and working methods.

What about geographic flexibility? Do companies look at different regions when searching for flex space?

A company isn’t going to move to another city just because there is a particularly suitable flex space available there. Sites are chosen based on strategic considerations. But does the new office space have to be near the headquarters? Depending on the company structure, it may make sense to move a department closer to a production site, for example, or maybe even establish a site in a new regional market.

Some companies also intentionally move creative units responsible for development to separate locations in order to “free” them from the company routine. These are all things which need to be considered as part of a comprehensive consultation service.

This is a good point. You could be forgiven for thinking that leasing a flex space is as simple as calling a provider on the phone. Why do I need somebody to help me do that?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. We have already mentioned the numerous options when it comes to selecting the type of space and the location. Many companies need an outsider’s point of view for this. It’s really easy to get caught up in the hype and choose a flex space solution which just doesn’t fit the company’s requirements or working culture.

And the effort involved must not be underestimated. A single freelancer could probably just call up one or two flex space providers and quickly find something suitable, but we are talking about teams or even entire departments. Without prior knowledge, companies will contact and visit just as many sites as they would if they were pursuing a traditional lease agreement. Maybe even more, especially when we consider the numerous types of flex space. And the on-site situation can only really be assessed in person.

This takes a lot of time. However, working with a partner who has comprehensive and in-depth market knowledge allows you to concentrate on the right offers straight away. And when companies move in to flex spaces, it’s not necessarily in line with the listed prices and terms and conditions, as many providers are open to discussing discounts. There is certainly also room for negotiation when it comes to the lease conditions or designing the space. We therefore recommend placing your trust in a flex space professional here.