Five signs your business should switch to an agile real estate model

Companies of all sizes should consider an alternative to the 10-year lease. The world of work is changing—fast

Eighty-one percent of executives consider agility to be the most important characteristic of a successful organization. Agile companies and teams can innovate faster, capture new market opportunities, and mitigate uncertainty. 

But traditional real estate models, with their long lease terms and capital requirements, aren’t always conducive to business agility.

Thankfully, there is a better way. In recent years, the market for agile real estate has exploded. According to CBRE, flexible space in the top 10 markets grew by 25 percent in 2018 alone.

What is agile real estate?

Let’s start with what it’s not: moving your team into hot desks in a coworking space. Flexible office-space solutions have been around for the better part of three decades, but the coworking boom has brought a new level of experience and scale. The principle is the same: A business can access just the right amount of space for their needs. But today those businesses—and the office spaces—are much bigger. At WeWork, more than one-third of the Fortune 500 are taking advantage of our agile workspace solutions.

At its simplest, agile real estate delivers an office space with much more flexible lease terms and all-in-one design, build, operations, and support. The WeWork platform offers thousands of move-in ready office spaces in hundreds of cities around the world for businesses of all sizes, from individual offices to half- and full floors.

At the more sophisticated end of the scale, the principles of agility can be applied to entire buildings. At WeWork, we co-source and manage prime assets for some of our largest members, so they can flex into and out of the space as their needs change, and monetize the unused space in the interim. If they need three floors now and the rest of the building later, they can grow into the space without taking a hit to their balance sheet.

Agile real estate allows businesses of all sizes to match their real estate precisely to their needs so they can move faster and invest where it matters—all while providing a great experience for their people.

How do you know if agile real estate is right for you? Here are a few reasons why our members are choosing agile options.

You’re growing (or shrinking) unpredictably

Perhaps your company is in hypergrowth mode. You can’t project beyond next year how many people you’ll hire, but you know you’ll need a lot. Or maybe your business is considering downsizing to stay profitable. Possibly you’re taking some big bets and want to bring in a supplementary workforce for an unknown period of time.

Whatever the scenario, the thought of making a costly, long-term commitment like signing a lease for the next decade may seem unsettling. You’re not alone. The average headcount-planning cycle in the U.S is two years, and organizations large and small are experiencing levels of volatility like never before. 

With agile real estate, you can scale your workspace up and down as your business needs change, so you’re not burning your investment, and your employees always have the right amount of space to be productive and fulfilled.

Bedding brand Brooklinen began in Vicki and Rich Fulop’s living room—and business started booming quickly. They came to WeWork because they knew they would need space to grow, but the trajectory wasn’t yet certain. “We didn’t know what the future held for us, so we wanted a workspace that was extremely flexible,” says Rich. Brooklinen has since grown to 32 employees from two, and their space has scaled with them: They were able to expand from a small office all the way up to a half-floor in the same building they started in, WeWork Dumbo Heights in Brooklyn. 

With WeWork, “you can move offices, lease another office, take out a wall,” Rich explains. “WeWork will let you grow with your team.”

You’re making important investment decisions

So you just secured another round of capital. Congratulations! Now the real work begins. Where and how will you invest for maximum impact? If you’re planning to grow your talent base, you’ll need to invest in more real estate, but the traditional route requires a significant capital outlay, which will eat into your other investment priorities. 

Agile real estate solves this problem. At WeWork, we amortize the standard fit-out contribution over our long-term leases, and charge our members only for the time that they occupy the space. This means you can access beautifully designed space without the capital exposure. 

Operating an office can also come with many unforeseen costs. A broken HVAC system or a plumbing disaster can throw off even the most careful forecast, not to mention cause headaches for your team. Agile offices combine all property costs, operational expenses, amortized capital improvements, and management fees into one predictable monthly fee, bringing more certainty to your forecasts and making your teams’ lives a little easier.

You want to test a new market

You know it’s time to expand your horizons, and you have your sights set on a new market. All the signs are positive: You have a growing and satisfied customer base, you’ve identified unmet demand, and you even have some key leaders who are willing to relocate and build teams. But it’s not a sure thing—it’s never a sure thing—and you want to do everything you can to mitigate risk. 

In this scenario, a traditional lease is a risky option. When you combine the long-term commitment, the capital outlay, and the time and effort required to set up a new office in a new location, it becomes a very costly experiment. The challenge is magnified when you’re considering expanding internationally. 

Agile real estate is the prudent option here. Instead of locking your organization into a long lease commitment and a costly, time-consuming buildout, securing an agile space for your teams allows them to get up and running quickly. And because agile workspaces scale on demand, you can start with a small amount of space and scale up as your satellite business grows.

When social media management platform Hootsuite began to expand internationally, they knew that change would be the only constant. Hootsuite needed a flexible real estate solution that could scale with them all over the world. They used the WeWork platform to establish regional headquarters in cities such as New York, Sydney, London, Hamburg, Paris, Mexico City, and Toronto.

“WeWork allows us to plan for the future. It’s very easy to scale up or scale down, depending on your needs. It makes things very simple for us,” said Nicole Quinn, executive assistant to the general manager.

You need to tap into a new pool of talent

You’re desperate for developers, but you don’t want to pay the Bay Area price tag. Your new vice president of sales wants to build a squad in Denver. You have no trouble finding creatives with brilliant portfolios… but they’re all based in Los Angeles. In recent years, the talent landscape has shifted, and cohorts of tech, creative, and commercial superstars are fleeing the expensive coastal hubs and cropping up in new cities around the country and around the world. This is great news for your talent strategy and your bottom line—provided you can set up offices there, too. 

Adding agile offices into your portfolio is a quick way to turn your business into a talent magnet. WeWork member TripActions, whose headquarters is in the Bay Area, came to WeWork to see if a San Francisco satellite office could help them recruit city-based talent. And it worked. They’ve since grown their employee base 10 times, and leveraged WeWork’s platform of agile offices to expand to cities as far-flung as London, Amsterdam, and Sydney. “WeWork has enabled us to hire great talent that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to,” says Tammi Yee, vice president of global talent at TripActions. “Instead of being siloed in our Palo Alto headquarters, we now recruit the very best talent in cities all over the globe.”

Your employees are demanding more flexibility

Your most predictable closer is always on the movearound his region and across the country. Your very best lawyer needs to be close to home on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Your wunderkind developer weaves magic with code, but only between the hours of 8 p.m. and 3 a.m. You’ve heard rumblings among the staff that the commute is a drag, especially on Fridays. 

Across job functions and industries, today’s top talent want to work on their terms—where, when, and how they like. According to LinkedIn, 72 percent of talent professionals agree workplace flexibility is crucial to shaping the future of recruiting and talent. But the tyranny of distance is real, and keeping remote and distributed teams engaged and productive can be a challenge. If you’ve ever tried to close a deal in a coffeeshop or write a thoughtful performance review in an airport lounge, you’ll have felt the difference between “working remotely” and being in a workspace that’s intentionally designed for productivity.

In the traditional real estate model, every lease you sign gives you access to a single office. Agile real estate gives your teams the space they need to do their best work and live their best lives. As a WeWork member, you’re part of a network of more than 700 beautiful, reliable workspaces in every major business city worldwide, and can give your employees one-swipe access to reliable, on-demand workspace in your city, your region, the country, or around the world. 

When Microsoft wanted to give their New York sales team maximum flexibility, they gave them access to all of WeWork’s locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. This helped them stay close to their customers without losing productivity: 84 percent of them believe access to WeWork makes them more productive during their workday. And it’s having an effect on retention, too. “We want to grow our people and give them a chance to work on problems that have impact and change the world,” says Matt Donovan, a Microsoft general manager. “I think solutions like this are another way to keep our best people.”

At WeWork, we believe that real estate should be a tool to drive your business forward, not a shackle that holds it back. 

WeWork offers companies of all sizes space solutions that help solve their biggest business challenges. Get in touch to learn more about our agile real estate solutions.

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