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Traditional Office Is Merging With Coworking

Once considered rivals, coworking concepts and office landlords are finding common terrain as the pandemic begins to wind down — namely, with the formation of partnerships that offer tenants the benefits of both coworking and traditional office spaces. 

A WorkSuites location

In Dallas-Fort Worth, developer and building owner Westdale Real Estate Investment and Management announced a partnership with coworking brand WorkSuites to create a flexible office solution that gives Westdale tenants access to subscription coworking services at 15 WorkSuites outlets at discounted rates. 

Known as Citywide Workpass, the program allows remote employees participating within Westdale to receive coworking options while also receiving steep discounts on various offerings, such as access to meeting and training rooms, coworking memberships and private office rentals.

"They wanted to be able to offer an amenity to tenants," WorkSuites CEO Flip Howard told Bisnow about his arrangement with Westdale. "They have a lot of people looking for traditional office spaces with them to be their corporate headquarters, but the [Westdale tenants] also have employees who want to work remotely in other locations."

Through this partnership, Westdale is able to house corporate and regional hubs in the market, while also offering 15 WorkSuites locations to tenants desiring worksites closer to home in the suburbs. 

"They wanted to try and find a way to make it easier for those clients to have their corporate headquarters in a Westdale building, but also to be able to place one person here, and two people here and three people here in various spots throughout town," Howard said. 

A shared area at Common Desk's East End location in Texas.

From a human resources standpoint, this is just what the doctor ordered in the wake of the massive work-from-home movement during the coronavirus pandemic, said HR Chique Group founder Angelique Hamilton, who has been advising firms on how to transition employees back to the office.

"What is happening is employees are pitching that to their employer, so the employers are starting to try to bring individual employees back to the offices in a more staggered approach," Hamilton said.

"What I am finding with just a couple of people that I have spoken to is they have had employees ask about flex spaces and coworking spaces  and [about whether] the company would compensate them for that."

WorkSuites is not the only coworking location with this type of partnership in DFW. Common Desk inked a deal with office developer and operator Granite Properties to open a Common Desk coworking site at Granite Park V and Factory Six03 in Dallas' West End. The program developed between the two firms for tenants is known as G.O. Pass. 

Rather than being just a tenant, Common Desk is more of a service provider and operating partner to Granite, allowing the landlord/office developer to benefit from the flexibility of having different office solutions on-site. 

"Granite had the incredible foresight to see that under an aligned partnership structure flex office/coworking operations have substantial operational advantages over leased locations," Dawson Williams, head of real estate at Common Desk, said in a statement to Bisnow.

The pandemic has already prompted architects and landlords to predict a future where satellite office locations sitting miles away from home offices and regional hubs are frequented by workers who live in the same geographic area, but who want to escape long daily commutes.

"I do agree there are certain industries that are looking at that as kind of a hub-and-spoke model, where you have the hub of a company, and maybe it's central to a city geographically speaking, and then you have satellite offices in the suburbs that make it easier to get to those places," said Marc Bellamy, an architect with PDR.

This trend is even more predictable after more than a year of working from home.

"Long commutes are really deterring people from considering working in the office five days a week in the future," Gensler Strategy Director and Consulting Leader Kelly Moore said. 

Moore said whether, through coworking or a remote satellite office operated by the main tenant, the idea of having spaces in various parts of the same metro market is growing.

In a survey completed by Gensler, known as the U.S. Workplace Survey 2020, the architectural firm discovered 52% of surveyed employees post-pandemic desired a hybrid-work model with some on-site office work and significant time spent at home working remotely. 

Coworking space, while unlikely to build out the type of culture in-office employees crave, has the potential to offer employees working from home in the DFW suburbs a place to go when their home office gets too difficult to handle. 

"You have home, you have your office, and that coworking space might really be a respite from home," Moore said. "For those people who have distractions at home, whether from kids or a dog that likes to bark at the postman every time he comes by, that coworking space might actually offer more of a head's-down [experience] than what you are getting at home, and it might actually be closer than where your office is."

There is one big downside to using coworking as a satellite office, Bellamy said, and only time will tell how this trend plays out. 

"I think having the satellite office as just a place to escape your home, I don't think that will stick because what people are really looking for when they come back to the office is a place where the culture of that company can come together and that isn't necessarily going to happen in a coworking space," Bellamy said.

But for WorkSuites' Howard, coworking can offer office end users the one amenity employees will be looking for after the pandemic: a solid office environment, and one that is only a short drive from home.

UPDATED, April 7, 11:10 A.M. ET: A previous version of the story was updated to include the name of Common Desk and Granite's coworking brand.