The rise of flexible working and co-working – are you in the know?
The flexible workspace industry has soared over the last few years because commercial occupiers are electing for flexibility in terms of space and the terms upon which they are acquiring that space.
Occupiers want more than just a desk; they want shared facilities, connected buildings, services and the added benefits of being situated in a particular office.
Education institutions are beginning to recognise the opportunities presented by the flexible workspace market, because unlike other landowners, they often already have the buildings, facilities and space to be able to offer flexible working schemes to a wide variety of commercial occupiers.
Flexible working has a variety of offerings including co-working spaces, serviced and managed offices and short term, flexible lets. A number of universities in the UK are already marketing their ability to provide flexible and/or co-working space. Leeds Beckett University offers an option to “Rent a Desk” in a shared office in the Leeds Digital Hub. Occupiers here also obtain the benefit of attending networking events and socialising with “like minded” people at those offices. The University of Manchester has very recently revealed that they will be opening a co-working hub for start-up companies in the University of Manchester Innovation Centre. The offering will take the form of desks being rented out monthly as well as being able to use space by the hour.
Flexible/co-working can be defined by the landowner, and it appears that the most popular offerings include having “membership perks” where occupiers obtain added benefit from being situated in a particular space. This could be the type of professionals utilising the space, offering educational know-how/access to educational materials, or discounts on the utilisation of conference space etc.
From a legal perspective, what is important when considering whether any of the flexible working initiatives may be suitable for you, is formalising the delivery of such an initiative. A key consideration is the legal documentation that will be required to ensure that limited rights are being granted to occupiers. Documentation could take the form of flexible contracts for services rather than a licence, tenancy at will or other short term lease. You may also need to consider producing terms and conditions for an occupier becoming a “member” of the flexible working space. These terms and conditions could set out the basis of the contractual relationship, termination, obligations of the member and the rights and benefits they will receive.
It is therefore worth considering whether flexible/co-working is a prospect that could maximise the use of your buildings/space, as not only is there the opportunity for an additional income stream, but also to be home to an innovative social space.