GCUC 2023, a leading event within the coworking and flexible workspace sector, did not disappoint in showcasing a strong sense of community. It also provided invaluable insight into what ‘working’ means in today’s modern world.
The event saw hundreds of industry professionals come together in Chicago, presenting a plethora of opportunities to building connections, and importantly to delve into some of the key issues and trends impacting the flexible workspace industry.
There was a great panel on ‘KPIs you should be tracking to maximize ROI.’ Flip Howard, Alaethea Hensley, Jamie Russo and Kane Willmott shared some incredible insights. Panels around brand, community and technology that elevates services lit up the stage – delving into every facet of the trends impacting the sector.
The event enabled some important conversations around:
- overcoming industry challenges
- how you can find success in a difficult climate
- innovative ways to drive profitability, and
- understandably the increasing demand for flex.
Understanding the community you are in is the best way to deliver for a sector. This is no different when trying to understand what shape workspaces will take in the future, and how to respond to the changing industry. We’ve been attending GCUC for 6+ years, as it brings together the people and the conversations at the forefront of change.
It was great to hear from our clients and those in the community about their first-hand experiences. This was especially interesting as we explore the transforming real estate market against the current climate impacted by post pandemic changes, a difficult economic backdrop, as well as increased innovation and a drive to environmental and social sustainability.
Some of the key discussion points from the conference were:
The rise of suburban flex
Big cities are seeing a rapid growth in flex due to changing real estate strategies. However, the new ‘work from anywhere’ mentality is ushering in the age of the suburbs. Increasingly flex workspace operators are looking to these peripheral locations to support workers looking for great workspaces closer to home.
After a few years of high valuations the changing market has set more realistic expectations for the real estate industry. This has brought a renewed sense of focus on strategic spending. Companies have an eye on profitability and are looking at initiatives such as monetizing virtual offices with platforms such as Davinci, Piloto main, or with voice licenses or call answering services. Plus, more broadly looking at their tech stack and how that can create short and long-term efficiencies.
Pressure makes diamonds
High office vacancy has put a lot of pressure on the office industry. While the traditional office sector has been impacted by low occupancy rates, this has also created an environment for innovation and an opportunity to bring new workplace strategies to the fore – such as adding flex workspace offerings to a portfolio. There is a flight to quality as office providers look at new ways to remain competitive and relevant, putting the office experience at the heart of the conversation. This put a heavy focus on tech, as it is a key tool in understanding spaces and delivering exceptional places.
Consolidation and collaboration
As flex brands continue to thrive the industry is starting to see more partnerships forming and some consolidation. This is strengthening offerings and creating trusted brands that can better serve their markets. A great example of this is the hygge and COhatch collaboration. It’s definitely a new trend, where we previously saw lots of operators with 1-10 locations or 100+. They are now seeing a mid-market emerge, with 20-50 sites becoming more prevalent.
As flex workspace providers look to navigate the transforming world of work, we’re seeing operators looking for new business lines to better embed their offering. This has manifested in a number of ways, but increasingly in consulting. As experts in their fields, companies and people such as The Deco Group and Jamie Russo of Everything Coworking, are two such examples of those offering their insight and knowledge to others looking to get into or grow within the sector.
Overall, it was a lively conference, hosting leading brands big and small from across the sector. It was great to have everyone back together in full force, especially after the virtual days of the pandemic. One thing was abundantly clear – flex is here to stay, and the opportunities are vast.
As a software and technology company powering these types of spaces – helping our customers to deliver operational efficiencies, realize the true value of their spaces, and to create great experiences throughout the customer journey – we were grateful to be back in the room hearing such interesting conversations, and being part of the community that is shaping the future of work.