YES! We Can: Adapt to the Near Future (as is tradition!) – part 1

We Can!


Embracing the “Why” of the new or renewed purpose may have revealed the gaps in “how”. What will adapting to a new Near Future look like? In part 1 of our two-part post, we’ll share our view on the continuous adaptation of the flexible workspace industry from 1992 (our own debut) to 2011, when we see the migration to an industry movement.

Over the course of our 19-year consultancy, we have witnessed how adaptation to new ways of working lead to fresh products, solutions and service offerings. Together, we’re just about to see how the latest, forced adaptation gives us reason to believe in the incredible opportunities arising from the pandemic. Some of this will come a bit full-circle, but let’s start with some background.

A little history

Our experience in the industry starts back in 1992, pre-Internet and initial recovery from the 1989 economic meltdown from the Savings & Loan debacle. The model for our industry introduction was a 24,000 s.f. Class A office in the CBD of Chicago. In this size space, the standard was 85-90 private offices, 3 meeting rooms and 6 people on staff. There was incredible event space which was unique to this location – and never really marketed. In addition, variable services were expected to deliver at least 30% of overall revenue to the business. Think of providing services for faxing, long-distance call charges, telephone answering, administrative assistance and you understand how it could be done.

Fast-forward to 1999, seven short years, and all these revenue streams nearly evaporated.

In its place came Internet fees, with a desk phone still required but a decline in the long-distance rate. Administrative support? The industry adapted by offering technical support to assist clients in all areas of this surge to the digital age. Some of you may remember Y2K.

The Internet Café and Coworking

Prior to the original iPhone release in June of 2007, Starbucks was providing opportunities for freelancers and students to carry work into a “Third Place” – not home and not office – but a community all its own. The next wave of transition from executive suite / serviced office / office business center was coworking. The first, true, permanent coworking space in the US beyond what Brad Neuberg created in 2005 was The Hat Factory. Established by Brad with Chris Messina and Tara Hunt in 2006 in San Francisco. Amenities include free internet, modest furnishings, an open workspace at tables, a bit of programming (yoga and shared lunches) and a community of like-minded individuals. The next pivot was born.

The Movement

As the coworking concept continued to expand to other US markets, the passion of representing the model as a community and a movement, rather than a workspace, took hold. Executive Suites and Office Business Centers were passe and way too formal for the new generation of workspace. Indy Hall came to the opposite coast, in Philadelphia in 2007, established first as a community of users prior to having official workspace. This became the go-to philosophy for building a successful coworking enterprise for years. 2008 marks the start of Green Desk, precursor to the 2010 debut of WeWork – both started by Miguel McKelvey and Adam Neumann. (Green Desk was then sold, enabling them to start WeWork) In 2011, the first official GCUC (Global Coworking UnConference) was hosted in Austin. The space designs by this time are focused on a majority of open-plan, limited office, if any, and a loyal, very transient daytime population. During this phase, many operators are smaller (less than 6,000 s.f.) with limited staff and occasionally managed by members. Owners view their business as part of a bigger movement, with revenues being less a priority than building community. Adaptation to the adaptation.

In many ways, the Great Recession in 2008 provided the fuel for expansion, due to necessity, of coworking. The initial migration to “work anywhere” was a mantra to Millennials in the workforce. Their comfort with remote work and working in teams was a natural fit to the open plan and transience of coworking. As a result, what was considered a fad becomes a trend, as we’ll outline in part 2.

Stay safe and Stay Well 

For Landlords and Developers thinking about flexible workspace in your profile, view our process here.

In part 2, we’ll explore how The Fad becomes a Trend and The Next Normal.

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