The GWA: A Recap of the Annual Flexible Office Market Event

The GWA exceeded our expectations this year. It brought together over 400 flex-space operators, consultants, vendors and market experts to explore the current and future opportunity of our industry. Here are our key takeaways.

1. DELIVER SERVICE WITH PURPOSE

Jeff Hargett, Senior Practice Director at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, delivered a killer, entertaining keynote about the importance of people and human connections in your operation. 

  • Function with purpose and prioritize excellence in service.
  • Space versus people. To make a space look nice, it takes money. But to make your customers feel special and give your brand purpose, it takes people. 
  • Your brand and purpose will determine your ability to differentiate your brand.
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2. PERSPECTIVES ON CRE & FLEX-SPACE

GWA President Mark Gilbreath interviewed EQ Office President and CEO Lisa Picard about the future of CRE. Scott Homa, Head of Research at JLL, spoke with CRE and leading flex-office players.

  • The office asset category is the largest real estate category. It's burdened by capital heavy operations and high capex investments. The delivery models have to change. Enter: Flex-space.
  • Advanced CREs are talking about going agile and looking to move 10% of their portfolio to this model.
  • Coworking and flex-space models are not going away.
  • Flex isn't "just about putting it into a few floors, it’s about controlling the entire atmosphere and making sure the experience is seamless and frictionless." – Justin Stewart, Industrious.
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3. SECURITY & SMART BUILDINGS

Security is a hot topic and a bare-bones requirement in today's flex-office. Ari Kepnes, CEO of space occupancy platform Density, got to the bottom of security basics and beyond with subject matter experts Anne Hardy (Join CSO)  and James Shannon (essensys CPO)

  • Many people (unfortunately, you and your tenants) take security for granted. After a security breach, it’s usually too late to fix it.
  • Monitor and ensure risk management measures are in place to prevent breaches that can taint your brand.
  • The tighter the integration of your systems (think: single credential login) the easier it is to manage, monitor and secure your operation.
  • Trusted vendors are key to deliver the right security solutions and stitch all system elements together.
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4. TECH & MEMBER EXPERIENCE

With CRE mindsets shifting from product to service, member experience is all the rage. It came up in multiple sessions at the conference. Here's the gist of it: 

  • The flex-space model operates in a B2B2C fashion. Members expect a consumer grade experience that also satisfies requirements for enterprise-grade services
  • Brand differentiation depends on delivering an excellent member experience.
  • Bolster member experience by gathering data from multiple systems, analyzing and driving insights about behavior and activity. 
  • When it comes to meeting expectations for corporates, the challenge is multi-tenancy and overcoming the added complexity of multiple businesses operating under one roof.
  • Tech must be predictable, scalable and repeatable to effectively serve to your customers and your business.
  • When it comes to flex-space and CRE, landlords are not staffed or equipped to service the space and create a platform operation.
  • Laser focus on the operation is key.
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5. THE MARKET STATS WE LEARNED

  • “Between 2014 and the end of 2018, the number of flexible workspace locations expanded by 205% and the number of operators by 138%”
  • “In 2018, flexible workspaces accounted for more than 2/3rds of the U.S. office occupancy gains.”
  • “The global market value of flexible workspaces is estimated at an approximate $26 billion”
  • A combined $745 million was raised by The Wing, the Riveter, CommonGrounds Workplace, Awfis, Knotel and Industrious in 2019.
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MORE GWA TAKEAWAYS!

1. SECURITY IS CRITICAL

Data and cyber security are mission-critical to a flex-space operation. Security is complicated and prone to risk. Corporate and enterprise occupiers simply won’t take a space if it doesn’t comply with their IT requirements. Don't gamble when it comes to security. Check out our latest eBook on Security Considerations for Flex-Spaces to learn everything you need to know.

2. FOCUS ON HOSPITALITY & SERVICE

The varying needs of occupiers of all sizes are driving flexible office uptake. Real estate decision makers are no longer the CFOs or those who sign the rent check. Consumer-grade experiences with top notch service levels are expected from tenants. Brand equity and service delivery are critical to deliver that type of member experience.

4. MARKET EVOLUTION

The flexible workspace market has evolved rapidly and will continue to mature. Flex-space occupier requirements are changing and commercial real estate is responding to these demands. The GWA is a testament to two key things: 1) coworking operators are ahead of the curve and 2) they have a massive market opportunity.

5. WE LOVE THE 80'S

The GWA community really loves the 80’s! essensys and our friends at Instant Offices took the GWA after party Back to the 80’s. There were ruffles, leg warmers, shoulder pads and teased hair. There were arcade games, music, a prosecco and frozen custard truck, and a Dolorean. Yes, a Dolorean! Thanks to Braddock Commercial who helped us put on an epic evening of festivities.

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THE VISUALS

The essensys team
The Dolorean at the 80s After Party
It's all about security. The essensys VPN: Virtually Powered Negroni
The Security and IoT Panel: James Shannon, Ari Kepnes, and Anne Hardy
The essensys and Davinci Virtual teams
Our own Andrew Debenham with Greg from Helix Workspaces and Chirs from Your Office

We're market leaders.

Have a look at more great content, resources and webinars to help you launch and manage your flexible workspace operation.