Born in Germany in the 90’s, coworking spaces were quickly adopted by Silicon Valley before becoming mainstream. With coworking, freelancers and small startups were able to rent desks and share costly infrastructure (meeting rooms, kitchen) with their coworkers. It was the beginning of the advent of flexibility in the workplace.
To accompany companies towards this new organisation of the workspace, many startups developed workplace management tools: occupancy analysis with sensors or dashboards, desks and meeting rooms booking solutions, office marketplaces…
In parallel, a lot of consulting or audit companies also developed in the 90’s a new approach: Flexoffice, where the desk is no longer owned by each employee but attributed according to each employee need (and presence). This approach was essentially a way to optimise real estate cost for them.
However, even though the office got more flexible, the workforce was still synchronized with the workspace, meaning employees’ work time and planning was always in line with their presence at the office. No need to plan localisation and time: one desk and one time, the time at your desk. Everything has changed since then, leading to new challenges to be solved by technology.
Before the COVID and lockdown era, remote working was a marginal practice. When the workforce got forced, under constraint, to work from home, companies needed to find new ways to communicate, meet and collaborate without being in a similar workspace.
The workspace became fully virtual and it was the peak of the success of meeting tools like Zoom. More flexible schedule, no commuting time and less unproductive meetings…many advantages highlighted by collaborators of all companies. However, while the frontier between professional and personal life consequently tended to fade, downsides of fully remote modes are now known and shared by all: loneliness, mental health issues, lack of motivation and potential impact on productivity.
To face those new remote challenges, the market saw a surge in startups enabling remote working whether it is by allowing employees to have good working conditions at home (equipment), to be more productive or to keep weaving a bond with the team with virtual offices and gamified collaboration tools. But the full remote work mode remained unadapted for a large number of companies.
With a few months of hindsight, hybrid work seems to have become the new optimum in the aftermath of Covid crisis… and will probably impose itself as a durable trend. A survey led by BCG in March 2021 indeed reveals 64% of international respondents would ideally opt for a hybrid work mode, splitting their schedule between home and office..
Yet more flexibility between home and office also means more uncertainty. While hybrid schedules allow companies to drastically cut their rental costs and average office size tends to shrink, space occupancy management has become a burning issue, requiring notable adjustments to traditional organization. This major change in the relationship to our offices represents great opportunities for entrepreneurs willing to shape the future of our workspaces and facilitate the switch to hybrid work.
Indeed, as our mapping highlights, hybrid space management solutions are now the most crowded segment, reflecting the major trend towards this innovative yet challenging mode. We even see formerly coworking startups or traditional B2B SaaS platforms evolve towards hybrid work enablers.
Many new tools have emerged on the market to simplify the management of offices, optimize their occupancy, and optimize team collaboration and productivity while space and schedules are desynchronized. They developed features that will be the next normal: team planning management taking into account their potential geographic dispersion, allowing their members working on common projects to synchronize their schedules and plan strategic on-site or off-site meetings efficiently without risking over-capacity in the office. Offering a lot more than just add-ons to indicate your daily home-or-office status or your desk, those products become indispensable space and time management tools for office managers and team coordinators.
Alongside digital solutions to recruit, onboard and train worldwide workforce, or to simplify internal administrative processes, workspace management companies contribute to the global boom of the HR tech ecosystem.
Maintaining team cohesion around common corporate culture and values has never been more critical, and this responsibility falls jointly on managers and human resources teams who must redouble their efforts and imagination. While entire teams no longer meet on a daily basis, informal and unifying conversations around the coffee machine are becoming scarcer, and team building sessions or company seminars are gaining in popularity.
New companies are riding this wave to offer unforgettable all-inclusive experiences, from renting an old castle to organizing olympiads and barbecues. Teams want to spend less time together working at the same place when not necessary, yet more quality time to bond and align goals. Needless to say, the future of the workspace is on the move and is not done surprising us…