Healthy growth is something most companies dream of but hypergrowth comes with growing pains. This is how rapid-growth companies can use core and flex space to accommodate their expansion.
Many credit the first use of the term hypergrowth to a 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review, though it was featured in the title of Adam Osborne’s corporate memoir, Hypergrowth: The rise and fall of Osborne Computer Corporation, 24 years earlier. Regardless of its true origin, the definition provided in the 2008 article is the most widely used today: “the steep part of the S-curve that most young markets and industries experience at some point, where the winners get sorted from the losers.”
Companies experiencing hypergrowth have unique requirements as far as workspace is concerned – namely the sheer rate at which they need to acquire more of it. Expansion isn’t a problem when it can be planned for in advance. But when growth is steep, particularly during the early developments of a company’s lifecycle, an office designed specifically for hypergrowth can be a far-off luxury.
Core and flex space models are a key part of managing the pain points associated with hypergrowth. A company’s core space, or their primary long-term office space, becomes increasingly important as that company matures. Core space is leasehold space, generally with fixed leases of ten, five or three years. Young companies like start-ups, however, usually lack a completely personalised space built around their employees. Office fit outs take time and money, two resources most new hypergrowth businesses don’t have in excess. That’s where flexible space comes in.
The aptly named core and flex space models include both core and flex space – under this model, a company takes up flexible space as needed in order to supplement their core space, usually in the same building. In other words, companies can use flex space to grow as and when they need to. Flex space is space offered on short-term leases and at different price points, sometimes on a membership basis. Not to be confused with flexible working, flex space refers only to the physical space a company can occupy, rather than a work strategy. The great news for companies experiencing quick growth? London’s flex space offering is increasing and there are already over 60 different flex space operators in Central London alone.
• Low cost of entry
• Short-term leases
• Room to grow
• Furnished workspace
Flex space provides a short-term solution for rapid expansion, alleviating strain until a company achieves a settled rate of growth. Tech company Eigen recently moved into their new London HQ, having spent three interim months in a WeWork during the build of their office. The AI specialists have grown from five to 80 people in under five years, with funding from major companies including Goldman Sachs and Temasek.
Prior to moving into WeWork, Eigen was spread across a five-floor townhouse in London’s Covent Garden. “When I started, there was nothing there operationally,” says Global Head of Facilities, Julia Suiter. “Anything that came up to do with the space was dealt with as we needed to. If something broke, we fixed it: we didn’t make sure it wasn’t going to break in the first place.”
Eigen’s story is a picture-perfect representation of the whirlwind nature of hypergrowth. Like many other young rapid-growth companies, Eigen was growing so quickly that team members took on expanded roles just to keep the company functioning, and workplace ergonomics took a back seat at best. When they came to Oktra for the design and build of their London headquarters, Eigen had outgrown their townhouse office space completely.
Enter flex space: Eigen moved into a WeWork for three months while their new office was completed. While Eigen didn’t have the option to take up flex space in their previous office building, they found the same advantages by leasing flexible space within a WeWork offering. “It was something that was a very new concept to us because we’d been separated on different floors,” says Suiter.
Having expanded across floors as they grew, Eigen’s teams experienced internal communication issues in their old space. “We found the silos in our old workplace to be a barrier – we knew we needed a more open-plan space so that people could communicate freely. WeWork gave us that; we had meeting space, we had open areas for tea and coffee and they had beer on tap – it was a revelation to us and a sign of our growth that we were going into a serviced office,” explains Suiter.
Moving into flexible space gave Eigen the workspace they needed while they needed it, allowing them to move out of the flexible offering when their own office was completed. While it was the perfect solution at the time, the teams quickly began to feel the limitations of flex space.
“We learned a very big lesson there: that space is key to being productive. We weren’t there for very long before people found it really claustrophobic,” Suiter recalls. And that’s exactly why flex space is a temporary solution to hypergrowth-related problems; flex space is a great tool for accommodating growth, but core space will inevitably become increasingly important as a company grows and matures.
• Different types of space
• Supports different working styles
• Branded space enhances identity and company culture
• Cohesive client / visitor experience
Core space allows businesses to evolve in a work environment that reflects their brand and culture, particularly when it’s designed with their people in mind. WeWork gave Eigen an open plan workspace that was large enough for their teams, but it didn’t give them the working environment they needed in order to support their different working styles.
Moving into their London office, Eigen had a new understanding of the kind of workspace they wanted. “We were able to learn – from the five-stories silo environment of King Street in Covent Garden, to the open plan modern WeWork, and we nailed it. We’ve got the space, we’ve got the collaboration – it’s just a bit more grown-up,” says Suiter of the new headquarters.
Eigen’s new office equips their teams with the relevant types of workspace for everything they do, allowing their employees to work the way they want to. “You could go and sit in a room by yourself, you could relax and put your feet up, you could sit on a beanbag or you could sit at a structured desk with a whole set-up, but still be able to collaborate freely with the team,” says Suiter.
The tech company’s new space isn’t just helping them work together, it’s actively representing Eigen’s brand. Suiter describes the space’s impact on company visibility, mentioning that Eigen are “maturing as a company and I think it shows in the space when we bring clients here or people come for interviews. It’s somewhere that we’re proud of – and we’re proud to have worked with a company like Oktra as well.”
Core space gives companies a bespoke workplace designed to suit their employees’ ways of working, one that promotes brand identity and provides a cohesive client and visitor experience. When properly designed, the support core space offers its occupants isn’t just beneficial, it’s a crucial part of what differentiates successful hypergrowth companies from those that couldn’t quite handle the S-curve. Flex space is an incredible tool for accommodating immense growth, and should be used as a stepping stone towards a workspace companies can call their own.