Flex space and hot desks: Just what the open-plan office needed

January 26, 2022

4 minute read

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Let's face it  the open-plan office is beginning to feel a little musty. Even before COVID-19 changed our relationship with our workspaces, workers were getting tired of the noisy, restrictive atmosphere. Could flex space and hot-desking be just what the office needs?

There was a time  not that long ago  when open-plan offices were the hot, new thing. Workers had grown weary of living their lives in cubicles and were hungering for a greater level of connection and collaboration with their coworkers.

And so, the open-plan office was born.

But this once-revolutionary idea is starting to show its age. Workers still value connection and collaboration, but the drawbacks of working at a noisy, exposed desk have been cast in sharp relief. Especially as the potential flexibility of the office has been revealed over the last couple of years.

Coworking spaces: a modern open-plan office

Here's the thing... nobody wants to go backwards. Workers aren't craving a return to cubicles. In fact, as we saw in our Global Office Tenant Report, many workers miss the irreplaceable frisson of working in an office with their colleagues. In our survey, 73% of respondents viewed the office as the best place to connect with colleagues, while 70% recognized its importance as a hub of collaboration.

But with two years of hybrid work styles under our belts, we've discovered the value of flexibility. And it's exactly that flexibility that could renew our love for the open-plan office. Offering flexible space and hot desking as a complementary tool for offices has the potential to make up for every potential pitfall.

Cut through the noise with flex space

Open-plan offices have some ironic drawbacks. Despite the touted freedom and connection often espoused by proponents, these offices have been shown to be occasionally restrictive and repressive for workers. A 2018 research article from Harvard found that face-to-face communication actually decreased in open-plan offices, with employees relying more heavily on electronic communications. And a 2021 piece in The Conversation noted the effect of noise on worker productivity in open-plan offices. It's no great surprise. A noisy environment makes it harder to focus.

It turns out, workers want to be in control of their space. When they want collaboration, they want a space that makes it easier. And when they need to focus on their own work, they want somewhere quiet and calm.

The open-plan office does little to further those goals. Simply tossing people into the same physical space and assuming collaboration will improve turns out to be a somewhat flawed system.

That's not to say that the flexibility and agility of open-plan offices are worthless. They simply don't offer the full breadth of what workers need to reach the height of their productivity. But by employing new, tech-based solutions to increase their level of flexibility, offices can offer everything their employees need. Even while maintaining their open-plan design for their main office space.

How Equiem makes coworking spaces easy

In order to help landlords cater to their users' desire for flexible working spaces, Equiem has made it possible to employ underutilized areas throughout your building for this purpose.

Whether you have available conference rooms, communal areas, or unletted floors, Equiem's Spaces functionality allows you to allocate area to be used by your tenants to extend their work spaces.

Equiem makes flex space and coworking spaces easy for tenants, users, and landlords alike


The type of flex space you offer is up to you. You can keep it simple, or go all-out with catering and cleaning options. Your users will be able to browse a full catalogue of your flex space offerings, and use them as break-out areas, brainstorming hubs, or simply as a quiet place to get some focused work done.

They can then book the space they want in-app, even paying for it digitally if you decide to monetize your space offerings. Our robust back-end system makes it easy on building managers too, with simple flex space setup, booking adjustments, payment processing, and more!

A hybrid work space to complement the open-plan office

The open-plan office still has strengths worth leveraging  it's fast and easy to set up. It's modular and can be rearranged on the fly. And, of course, it allows for quick collaboration when necessary.

But in order to foster reasoned, intentional collaboration by workers, greater flexibility is needed. By using Equiem to offer your tenants and users access to flex space, you can complement the strengths of their current office setups. And what they're left with is a holistic office that fosters greater productivity in every scenario.

Bustling office floor? Check! Space available for breakouts and brainstorms? You got it! Somewhere quiet to buckle down and focus? Just head on down to the hot desks on level four!

It may not be time to abandon open-plan offices altogether. But it's definitely time to accept what we know about their weaknesses, and do something to alleviate them.

Give your tenants and users what they want... options. Book a free demo today and find out how Equiem can help you modernize your space offerings.