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The rise of remote work during COVID-19 has been detri­mental to the future of office work — except in the line of flexible office space.

Offices across the U.S. are still mostly empty as major employers, such as Sales­force and Twitter, announce per­manent remote work options for staffers, Com­mercial Observer reported on Feb. 12.

According to Vox tech­nology off­shoot Recode, in December 2020 “only a small portion of people have returned to the office. In Man­hattan, the biggest office market, just 10 percent of office workers have come back, and some may never do so.”

Despite the decrease in new leases, the amount of leased flexible office space in the top 23 U.S. markets at the end of the third quarter this year has increased 2.5 percent from where it was at the end of 2019. 

But what is “flexible office space”? 

Flex office providers, such as WeWork and Indus­trious, lease ready-to-use office space to indi­viduals and companies. 

WeWork’s model is to lease space or entire buildings from land­lords, redesign the space to look new and hip, and then sub­lease desks, offices, floors, or entire buildings to indi­viduals and com­panies at a higher price. 

Indus­trious shares the revenue of about 80% of its port­folio with the building owners instead of leasing. This model min­i­mizes losses since the company pays less when they’re bringing in less revenue. Because of this, Indus­trious actually added one million square feet of new space in 2020 despite the pan­demic lockdowns. 

According to a survey from the real estate firm CBRE, about 86% of com­panies plan to rely on flexible space for their real estate strategies in the future. They’re also “highly likely to favor leasing in buildings that have flexible space offerings,” Recode reported.

Espe­cially with the con­tinuing lack of in-person business and the uncer­tainty that accom­panies it, this type of office space is attractive to com­panies who are seeking hybrid models of office life or unwilling to commit to multi-year leases. It’s also ben­e­ficial to the indi­vidual remote employee seeking space to work without the potential dis­trac­tions or unre­liable network of their homes.

Jamie Hodari, CEO of Indus­trious, said in an interview with Com­mercial Observer that the demand for flexible office space is increas­ingly becoming a norm.

“I think behind closed doors, there are no skeptics left in the com­mercial real estate world in accepting the rising demand in what we do,” Hodari said. “They’ve coa­lesced around this idea that, in general, COVID-19 is going to accel­erate the shift from the legacy way of doing com­mercial real estate to work­place as a service.”