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CBRE: Co-working Spaces Can Be More Cost-Effective than Traditional Leases in Pricey Gateway Markets

New CBRE Group, Inc. report examines misconceptions around co-working spaces as the segment undergoes exceptional growth

San Francisco – March 24, 2016 – Shared workplaces can be feasible and cost-effective alternatives to traditional office leases—even for larger occupiers, and especially in costly metro areas such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston, according to a new report from CBRE Group, Inc.

A number of misconceptions that have perhaps kept larger occupiers away from extensive use of co-working facilities remain, including that this type of space is priced at a premium compared with traditional leases; that it is only utilized by entrepreneurs and small businesses; and that the users are exclusively post-college millennials. Yet CBRE’s report found that these assumptions are not accurate.

“There are a number of ways large occupiers can use shared workplaces to meet their needs, including to access new markets, attract and retain talent and introduce innovation,” said Julie Whelan, Americas head of occupier research, CBRE. “Contemporary shared workplaces can be powerful tools to enhance the culture and values of an organization. Whether it be to promote innovative thinking or access a better work experience for employee retention, contemporary shared workplaces offer diverse ways to support the needs of occupiers of all sizes.”

Despite the perception that co-working spaces come at a premium, CBRE found that they can actually be cost-effective alternatives to traditional office leases in major gateway markets. An example of this national trend is illustrated in San Francisco where larger requirements ranging from 40 to 50, and up to 100 seats, have shown comparable financials to traditional office leases, including the built-in resources available at co-working spaces like office management, furniture and phones.

“There are also a number of intangible benefits to consider besides the headline lease expense when comparing the costs of shared workplaces with those of traditional leased offices, including the removal of the negotiating process, which improves speed to market, flexibility to scale the requirement as the occupier’s needs grow and built-in amenities,” said Ms. Whelan.

“Given the macro economic volatility in the San Francisco Bay Area, companies place high value on the flexibility these shared spaces offer,” said Carl Hansen, First Vice President of CBRE’s San Francisco office. “While a traditional lease could take three to six months to close, shared space transactions can be closed in three to six days with a much shorter term. Shared workspaces also allow companies to test out new markets on a short-term basis with minimal risk.”

Another misconception of shared workplaces is that these facilities cater only to small business and start-ups. Despite the tech industry’s influence as an early adopter, established industries such as financial services as well as other fast growing companies are going this direction in efforts to attract and retain top talent. A recent CBRE survey of large global occupiers found that more than 40 percent of respondents are using or considering shared workplaces, with a small, but growing, segment focused on co-working specifically.

Larger organizations are starting to initiate use of this space model to satisfy the requirements for specific departments or project teams that may not fit the cultural mold of the legacy office space. CBRE’s recent occupier survey revealed that today’s labor force puts a high degree of importance on the desire for a great “work experience” —specifically, the functionality of the workplace, the freedom of work style and the sense of community between related organizations.

“Co-working spaces give optionality in location and flexibility in lease term, while also embracing a more progressive approach to design. Their focus is on integrating what’s new and cool—inspiring common areas and sought-after amenities—with highly functional space to get work done,” said Lenny Beaudoin, senior managing director, Workplace Strategy, CBRE. “Furthermore, today’s business strategy calls for rapid testing of ideas—the idea of ‘failing fast to succeed sooner’; co-working models draw on concepts first developed for business incubators by universities to promote shared learning and co-innovation.”

Finally, while contemporary shared workplaces often have a youthful vibe, they are not all dominated by post-college millennials. About 63 percent of users were 31-50, with a median age of 40, according to CBRE Research’s survey of co-working. Fewer than 25 percent of surveyed users were millennials.

The CBRE report, the second in a four-part series, can be accessed here.

CBRE collaborated with Longview Global Advisors on the production of this report.

About CBRE Group, Inc.
CBRE Group, Inc. (NYSE:CBG), a Fortune 500 and S&P 500 company headquartered in Los Angeles, is the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm (in terms of 2015 revenue). The Company has more than 70,000 employees (excluding affiliates), and serves real estate owners, investors and occupiers through more than 400 offices (excluding affiliates) worldwide. CBRE offers strategic advice and execution for property sales and leasing; corporate services; property, facilities and project management; mortgage banking; appraisal and valuation; development services; investment management; and research and consulting. Please visit our website at www.cbre.com.