In a market economy, some human spaces are provided as services that compete with other services to attract customers. This is true of hotels, gyms, and shopping malls. But it hasn't been true of workplaces.
In the past, the workplace was provided by a monopoly provider — the company you worked for. As a result, offices hadn't been particularly appealing or creative, with industry exceptions like tech, where the nature of employment can be fluid.
Once an employer was chosen, individual employees didn't have a choice like customers. Instead, workplace quality was just another factor lumped in with many other factors for how appealing an employer might be.
You might accept a substandard workplace if other factors like higher salary and better growth opportunities were available. But in the future of work, that's going to change. It's already changing.
Get ready for the rise of the "destination workplace."
What happens in a vibrant free market of office spaces?
JLL's recent Workplace Preferences Barometer found that a rising percentage of employees seek a "third workplace" beyond the office and home — co-working spaces, coffee shops, and others. More than one-third (36 per cent) of employees work in a "third place" at least once per week, up from eight per cent a year ago.
On any given day, most knowledge workers have the option to work in their home office, at the local Starbucks, or the company headquarters, or they can choose from a wide range of office space alternatives, like dedicated co-working spaces.
In other words, employees now have a choice in workplaces — that choice has been separated and isolated from the list of factors that go into choosing employers.
According to the report, the so-called "flexible space" will become part of companies' future office strategies. Some 41 per cent say they'll increase their use of flexible space.
Rise of the 'destination workplace'
As a result of super-high demand for better places to work and free-flowing competition to supply that need, companies will get creative and evolutionary in offering increasingly appealing workplaces.
They will compete with each other, with the winners succeeding in this new market and the losers going out of business, raising both average office quality and employee expectations.
In fact, the theme of next year's Workspace Design Show (Feb. 27-28, 2023, at London's Business Design Centre) is the "Destination Workplace."
Not only will independent co-working services compete with each other, but companies will also have to compete with independent companies to attract their own employees.
And they will.
Deloitte, for example, created a "hybrid meeting floor" in its Amsterdam office, working with a company called Factorr to prototype ten technology-focused workplace experiments.
The "destination workplace" idea will extend to workcation travel, where companies already provide work-and-play places abroad for employees to travel to, plug in, and work while enjoying the local culture during free time.
The best part of this coming "destination workplaces" market is choice. Some like working in a noisy hive of activity, while others like interruption-free silence.
Everybody wants access to food, super-fast connectivity, high-quality environments for videoconferences, security, bathrooms, and other amenities. And they'll also provide the one thing employees want the most: flexibility.
A company in Asia called Common Ground offers very low-cost half-hourly rates, so if an employee drops in for 4.5 hours, that's all they pay for. Hourly and half-hourly rates, 24/7 open hours, and other flex policies will enable employees to work whenever they want or visit just for meetings or special projects.
The truly creative workplace creators will also provide training, daycare, massively high-quality video call rooms, augmented- and virtual- reality equipment to rent, fitness centres, nap rooms, bars, restaurants, tech support, and much more.
A recent CII-Anarock 'Workplaces of the Future' report predicts such flex-forward workspace providers will double over the next five years.
Legendary Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper backs a company called Startup Draper House, which combines startup incubation with hospitality.
The organisation now runs 30 hostels in 25 countries for entrepreneurs and investors, offering startups funding, training, community, low-cost living, and working on getting their businesses off the ground. They plan to help a million companies by the end of the decade.
Let's be clear about what this is: It's a workspace offering extra services, like a place to sleep, training, and funding.
That might be ideal for the tech industry. However, other industries can expect innovation in workspace alternatives custom-tailored to the needs of those industries.
Like other human spaces that come to us as services in a competitive marketplace, the future of work will bring us a market for office space that will make the best spaces a destination — the workplace.