What happens now that everyone knows it?

2021 will be a year like no other for learning what’s possible when companies of all sizes embrace Work from Anywhere with a thoughtful, long-term strategy for remote and flexible work.

During the pandemic, any job that can reasonably be performed remotely has become a remote job. For the first time, millions of employees adopted remote-enabling tools for communication, collaboration, events, project management and even good-old-fashioned brainstorming. Those who were accustomed to dressing up for work, commuting and performing their roles in a traditional office setting learned that there is actually another way.

2020 was full of headlines about Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Zillow, Mastercard, REI and numerous other large organizations announcing remote work policies in response to COVID-19. These announcements address immediate plans for working from home until vaccines are more widely available, and they also provide insight into longer-term considerations such as more flexible policies for work locations, fully remote work, relocation options and fewer corporate offices. 

There are several forms flexible and remote work can take in a post-pandemic world, but thousands of organizations have newly discovered two things the coworking industry has known for quite some time. Employees like flexibility. Employers like saving money.

The 2020 OwlLabs State of Remote Work Report provides a clear indication of how surveyed employees feel about flexibility:

  • 75% of people are the same or more productive during COVID-19 while working from home
  • In 2020 after COVID-19, 80% expect to work from home at least three times per week
  • One in two people won’t return to jobs that don’t offer remote work after COVID-19
  • One in two people would move if they were able to WFH all or most of the time

Global Workplace Analytics also estimates companies can save an average of $11,000 for each remote employee that works offsite half of the time. Savings are attributed to increased productivity, lower real estate costs, reduced absenteeism and reduced turnover.

Now, employers have a long list of assumptions to question and factors to evaluate in order to come up with return-to-work plans that suit employees, customers and other stakeholders.

What does this mean for our industry? For years, flex spaces have supported remote workers, entrepreneurs, small businesses and teams of all sizes at tens of thousands of locations around the world. Members join these spaces for a wide variety of reasons, and space managers already know how to create a great experience for professionals who don’t have a traditional office. It means we already know how to support this shift. You’re already doing it.

In 2020, millions of workers learned that while flexibility has plenty of upsides, working from home does have disadvantages. It’s difficult if you’re an employee who’s managing your work schedule while also serving as a teacher or caretaker during the pandemic. It’s distracting if your partner or roommate is also working at home, but it’s lonely if you live by yourself. It’s challenging if you’re early in your career and especially eager to make new, formative connections. Not everyone has the time, budget or space to set up a Zoom-worthy home office and not everyone has access to fast or reliable Wi-Fi. A task as simple as printing becomes an impossible quest to find the nearest, open, safe place that offers such services, and for some people, working at home simply isn’t as fun or motivating as being in the office with colleagues who are focused on the same goals as you.

For workplaces that plan to implement a long-term flexible work model, major considerations are employee environment and employee experience, and impacts on culture, productivity, retention and recruiting. Employers are also weighing health and safety guidelines, security requirements, and of course, opportunities for long-term cost savings.

As more employers adopt long-term flexible work and choose to reduce the number of office locations and traditionally-leased square footage, we can also expect more landlords to convert their assets to flexible space. This shift creates a vast number of options for companies that want to enable employees to reserve on-demand offices. When there’s a client meeting to attend, a team planning session to conduct, or sales calls to make, the home and the corporate office are no longer the default workspaces. Thousands of options spanning central business districts, the suburbs and smaller, rural communities can all be readily available for day-to-day work, a monthly meeting, or occasionally dropping in.

It’s been a tough year for our industry, and we’ve seen numerous closures of spaces and brands we love. Weathering the pandemic remains a difficult task as many spaces still face capacity restrictions and unknown timelines for fully reopening, hosting events or offering all of the amenities you once provided. We can’t predict when exactly return-to-work will happen, but we know that the way our workforce operates has now fundamentally changed.

Flex spaces are uniquely positioned to support the needs of more flexible and remote workers than ever before. Proximity, along with the hundreds of coworking and flex spaces in the Proximity Network, are prepared to support organizations and employees with the help and expertise they need to successfully transition to long-term flexible and remote work. In order to do this at scale, here’s what you’ll see next from Proximity.

Highly Flexible Inventory

We’re rolling out a new feature set that helps coworking and flex spaces manage memberships as reservations for any type of workspace for any duration or frequency. This means spaces can more easily manage bookings for private offices, dedicated desks, flex desks, conference rooms or event space for long-term memberships, recurring reservations or one-time bookings. Our customers will be able to integrate workspace reserved by members in the Proximity platform with (optional) inventory booked by non-members on an on-demand basis.

Employer Solutions

Once flexible inventory is in place, we can help more employers to find, book and manage flexible workspace at hundreds of locations in the Proximity Network. Employers can now also use Proximity to solve hoteling, meeting room reservations, digital door access, Wi-Fi management, employee check-ins and guest management at corporate office locations.

Commercial Real Estate Solutions

As more employers adopt flexible work policies, the demand for long-term and traditionally-leased assets is expected to decline. The need for flexible, reservable assets is expected to increase, and landlords are looking for solutions to operate their own flex spaces. We’re here to support this need with a turnkey management system that’s deployable at scale for managing reservations, check-ins, conference rooms, digital door access, Wi-Fi access, payment processing and reporting.

Over the last four years, Proximity has been fortunate to work with hundreds of coworking and flex spaces. We’ve witnessed and experienced the community impacts that can occur when job location no longer dictates where a professional chooses to live. We believe deeply in the values of community and connection, and that it’s difficult to do your best work in isolation. Enabling organizations with productive, secure, flex space at scale is a critical component of a successful, long-term shift to flexible and remote work. Proximity is thrilled to be here supporting companies, coworking spaces and communities with this transition in 2021 and beyond.

The Future of Work