Skip to main content Skip to footer

Flex operators across EMEA increase supply by 25,000 desks

Occupiers increasingly turn to flex solutions to support hybrid working

Analysis of 44 key office markets in EMEA showed a 155,000 sqm increase in the total amount of flex workspace, according to Colliers, Flexpansion 2021 report. This increase equates to 25,000 extra desks. Contributing to this increase was the addition of 285,000 sqm of newly opened space, but this was offset by 130,000 sqm of space that closed and a further 23,000 sqm that was abandoned. However, nearly a third of the space that closed was due to WeWork streamlining its business in key European locations such as Barcelona, Copenhagen, London and Oslo.

Tom Sleigh, Head of Flexible Workspace Consulting, EMEA Occupiers Services at Colliers said: “As occupiers increasingly turn to flex solutions to support new hybrid working practices, confidence is returning to the sector and operators are now looking outward for expansion opportunities. Several markets have reported rising occupancy rates for flex space. Noticeably Dublin and Copenhagen have reported that demand has taken occupancy rates to close to capacity.”

Supporting the Flexpansion 2021 report are the results from Colliers 2021 flexible workspace survey. Respondents stated:

  • 60% of operators are more likely to enter new markets in the next 12 months
  • 67% of operators are likely to expand speculatively in the next 12 months
  • 77% stated they had seen an increase in demand for pay-as-you-go hot desk membership
  • 72% reported an increase in the average number of desks per flex deal

Operator activity

IWG continues to expand quicker than it is consolidating with 15 new projects due to open this year and into 2022 across the Regus and Space brands. Looking forward, the IWG-WeWork duo account for only 20% of the active pipeline, which is notable as they account for a third of all existing stock. Commenting, Tom said: “A diversification of operators could lead to smaller players becoming more active and ultimately delivering more diversity of products and concepts in the flex market.”

We are seeing a significant increase in partnerships between operators, driven by investors’ appetite for direct exposure to the sector and for specialist operators to deliver enhanced shared tenant amenities. In addition, landlords are increasingly developing their own flex products, predominately as a reaction to occupiers demanding all-inclusive and flexible solutions as they navigate the return to work.

Location expansion

The amount of flex space in the EMEA office market only accounts for 2% of supply, leaving the office door firmly open for existing and new operators to enter the market. An example of this is Grafter who has expanded in Dublin and Microlab in Rotterdam, while X+Why has agreed four management agreements in Birmingham and London, doubling their presence within a year. In Finland YIT acquired UMA Workspace and established YIT Workery+ across three sites in Helsinki’s metropolitan area. LandSec’s Myo flex product opening their second location and The Office Group entering into a management agreement with Argent to develop a new 170,000 sq ft workspace hub in London’s Kings Cross. Welkin and Merkai have agreed terms for their third Paris location with UBW in La Defence, Design Offices is upscaling in Dusseldorf, while in Cairo, Riyadh and Dubai public bodies are driving the demand for smaller flex space.

Concluding Tom said: “As many organisations reconsider their workplace strategy and adopt hybrid working models the demand for flexible space is set to increase, as either satellite offices away from the main HQ or supporting new hybrid working strategies.

“Additionally, the pressure that ESG commitments are likely to place on real estate may contribute to an increase in demand for flex space as existing office stock is expected to face the need to retrofit to meet impending ESG requirements. While this retrofitting is undertaken, or leases come to an end, organisations may look to locate themselves in flex space in the interim.”

View our EMEA Flex report, ‘Flexpansion 2021’ here.

Related Experts

Anna Silkstone

Head of Content

EMEA Marketing

London - West End

Anna is an experienced B2B marketer, communications and business development adviser. She specialises in content creation and the resultant campaign output. In her role as Head of Content, EMEA she develops compelling communications for multi-channel direct and social marketing, media and internal communications. This is done in partnership with the business line leaders, research, digital and creative leads.

Anna has developed all of her career experience in the real estate industry. This has included leading on market response campaigns, thought leadership content development, research report identification, production and launch, client engagement and market profiling campaigns, proposal responses and bid presentation management, value propositions for marketing material, trade show presence, stakeholder management, internal and external communications, and building a remote-working marketing team. 

Prior to Colliers Anna worked at the global law firm, Dentons LLP as a Senior Business Development Manager for the Real Estate team and latterly as Head of Campaigns for the UKIME region, focusing on Environmental, Social and Governance. Anna also worked at CBRE for over two years and supported the Occupier Services section of the EMEA business. Before CBRE, Anna was at Lambert Smith Hampton for nearly nine years in a regional marketing role and later as a UK campaign manager. 

View expert

Tom Sleigh

Head of Flexible Workspace Consulting

Occupier Services EMEA

EMEA Headquarters

Tom Sleigh joined Colliers in 2019 as Head of Flexible Workplace Consultancy in the EMEA region. Tom supports occupier clients in the execution of their flexible workspace strategy and requirements, in addition to advising flexible operators on their expansion strategy throughout EMEA. He also supports real estate investors considering entering the sector, specialising in partnerships between asset owners and operators. 

View expert

Andrew Hallissey

Executive Managing Director – Occupier Services, EMEA

EMEA Corporate Solutions

London - West End

Well respected within the industry, Andrew is an Executive Managing Director with over 20 years of global experience within Corporate Real Estate. Andrew has a wealth of knowledge having advised dozens of Fortune 500 companies throughout the world on developing real estate transformation solutions.

As Executive Managing Director of EMEA Occupier Services.  Andrew drives strategy, client service delivery and spearheads the growth of Colliers’ occupier business within the EMEA region.

Andrew leads integrated service delivery for all occupier clients specialising in corporate real estate services, portfolio strategy, transaction management, brokerage, lease administration, project management, workplace services, and facilities management outsourcing advisory across the EMEA region.

Prior to joining Colliers, Andrew worked for CBRE where he has held senior leadership roles within their Global Workplace Solutions business in Chicago, Hong Kong, New York and London.  He has gained extensive global experience advising large corporations on their global real estate organization and strategy over the last 18 years, having worked across EMEA, North America and Asia Pacific.  Andrew also currently serves on the global board of directors of Corenet, the leading global association for the corporate real estate profession.

He has lived and worked internationally and has a deep understanding of the cultural and regional challenges within a global organisation.

View expert

Damian Harrington

Head of Global Capital Markets Research | EMEA Head of Research


London - West End

I currently have a joint role as a Director Colliers, as both Head of EMEA Research, and Head of Global Capital Markets Research.  I am also part of  our EMEA Location Strategy team.

I have worked within the real estate profession  for over 20 years, living and working from various locations across EMEA including London, Dubai, Prague, Helsinki and Amsterdam. My work and student experiences expanded my horizon to include India and the US. 

I use my experience and analytical skills to take a forward looking view of market opportunities & challenges impacting the industry on behalf of internal and external clients.  During my career I have written research /generated analysis of markets across all asset class types - from residential to offices, retail to logistics and hotels to niche sectors such as life sciences, air cargo and data centres.   I have analysed a variety of subjects and subject matter relevanmt to our industry, examining the impact on real estate such as the changing nature of global capital and the impact on global capital flows, the impact of e-commerce and near/off-shoring on global industrial and logistics markets and the changing nature of the energy and hydrocarbon industry. In addition to developing a view of markets at a very high-level,  I have conducted multiple studies examing the  micro-meso location factors critical in supporting the creation of planning policy at city/regional level, and in supporting investment and occupier decisions on key projects across EMEA, in addition to providing a strategic overview of multiple- markets and locations  as part of the decision making process. 

View expert