The rise of flexible working – Is it right for your business?

The capital boasts the fifth highest workstation rates of all key cities, largely due to increased demand within the city as large-scale projects take off.

A new expectation of worker rights has swept through the UK. Flexible working is becoming a regular feature in businesses across the globe as we seek to rebalance the time we spend at work and the time we spend for ourselves.

According to the Global Cities Report by The Instant Group, flexible working is becoming one of the major success stories for the commercial real estate sector. In the first-ever comparison of flexible workspace in key cities around the world, data reveals the market has grown a massive 18 per cent in just 12 months.

With emerging markets showing larger proportional growth than more established ones, flexible working is steadily changing the way we all work. In the latest and most comprehensive market research to date, Instant reveals which markets are leading the way and where the industry is headed.

Renting a desk in London is 19 per cent cheaper than in New York
$897 – average desk space in London

With 16 per cent growth in 2016, London has seen massive expansion of new operators and additional centres, with key expansion occurring in cities like Manchester and Birmingham.

At $897 on average for a desk space in London, the capital boasts the fifth highest workstation rates of all key cities after New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles, largely due to increased demand within the city as large-scale projects take off.

US boasts the highest average desk rates in the world
$1, 110 – average desk space in New York

A massive 37 per cent of space in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco is now described as co-working – an indicator of how quickly co-working has permeated the flexible working market in the US. Despite the maturity of these key cities, each has grown more than 15 per cent in the past year.

Average workstation rates in the US are more than $900 per person, per month, making it one of the most expensive locations in the world for co-working. Despite this, US cities are showing an upward trajectory and have grown 12 per cent in the last 12 months.

Research shows that the number of flexible workspace providers across the US totals more than 4000, half of which are concentrated in California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois, with California leading the way for the most number of flexible and dedicated co-working spaces. Major adopters of co-working in these areas include tech, advertising, media and IT firms.

Enquiries for flexible office space in Australia triple in two years
$565 – average desk space in Sydney

The number of enquiries for flexible workspace in Australia have tripled in just two years, while co-working and flexible office space has grown by up to 36 per cent in five years.

This massive increase in Australian supply exceeds that of the world’s largest market for such space – London – which grew from nine per cent to 16 per cent in 2016. It also outstrips growth in New York, which has long been one of the fastest growing flexible work centres in the world.

Sydney saw 19 per cent growth in 2016 with co-working and hybrid space growing three times faster than serviced offices. An average workstation rate of $565 per person, per month, Sydney is the 11th most expensive key market in which to rent space, while Melbourne is the 13th at $480 per person, per month.

The flexible workspace market in Hong Kong doubled in size in two years
$616 – average desk space in Hong Kong

The flexible workspace market in Hong Kong experienced 16 per cent market growth in the last year and doubled in size in just two. There are now 202 flexible workspaces in Hong Kong compared to the 330 in New York and 1,136 in London.

Growth is fuelled by increased demand for flexible space in a city that boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the world when it comes to the conventional office market, and more businesses are realising the benefits of procuring flexible space to save money. Average desk rates in Hong Kong are $554 compared to London’s $897, putting it at 10th place among key markets.

Renting a desk in Singapore is 57 per cent cheaper than in New York
$472 – average desk space in Singapore

With 22 per cent centre growth in 2016, Singapore has been a strong part of the APAC market evolution, and it is currently the 14th most expensive place to rent desk space of all the key cities. Over 90 per cent of co-working centres are located in the CBD in Singapore, where at $472 per person, desk spaces are 57 per cent cheaper than in New York.

There has already been a x4 increase in co-working space in the city, but further growth is expected for the second half of 2017 as new operators open locations within Singapore.

Costs of desks decreasing YoY in Shanghai
$505 – average desk space in Shanghai

Flexible workspace centres have grown by 20 per cent in the last three years in Shanghai, with 62 per cent of all co-working centres located in the central areas of Huangpu, Jing’an and Pudong. The rapid rise in co-working is largely attributed to government support, strong infrastructure and a growing millennial workforce, which has led to an increase in centres and market operators. It is currently the 12th most expensive place to rent a desk of all key cities.

The future of flexible working will lead to a more consumerised workplace

Key findings in the Global Cities Report reveals several unifying themes across all of the global cities which will drive expected trends going forward:

Occupier demand will shape the market more than ever before
Operators will be able to observe the customer experience far more quickly, enabling them to adjust offers accordingly
More hybrid spaces are expected to emerge as more operators recognise the co-working trend
More landlords will look to the operator model to drive engagement with occupiers

Owen Gough

Fred Morissette

Owen Gough is a reporter for He has a background in small business marketing strategies and is responsible for writing content on subjects ranging from small business finance to technology...

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