In the last few years, the global face of the workplace has changed beyond recognition. Now, companies are seeking premises that require less commitment, and offer reduced financial risk.
New licencing schemes have now been introduced to UAE, which offer greater freedom in terms of providing flexible office space. Here’s some more information.

The priorities in UAE

Demand is rising in the UAE for offices that can be leased for a shorter period of time, or on a membership basis.
This trend has already swept locations like Europe and North America. In 2018, stock of flexible premises rose by 28% in Europe, demonstrating clearly how in-demand these types of offices were becoming. JLL now predicts that, by the end of this year, the total stock of flexible working space in Europe’s 24 main office markets will be around 6 million square metres.
Although the Middle East hasn’t embraced the ‘flexi-office’ arrangement to the same extent as these other locations, it’s swiftly catching up. In short, businesses in UAE want to enjoy the same adaptability and convenience, to ensure that their enterprises thrive.

What’s the situation at present?

The ‘flexi-office’ movement is still in its formative stages in the Middle East. For example, in Dubai, there are only 70 flexible workplaces, which accounts for under 1% of the total office stock.
However, this figure is considerably higher than it was, and in fact, the quantity of flexi-space has risen by 175% in the last five years. This is mostly due to the shift in focus – making office space into an experiential process for business evolution, rather than just a bricks-and-mortar location.

The benefits of flexi-offices

There are a lot of advantages to flexible workplace solutions. These include:
-    Adaptability. With shorter-term leases in place, companies can upscale or downsize quickly, as required.
-    Reduced costs. The office fit-out and maintenance becomes the responsibility of the landlord, not the company renting the premises.
-    Greater opportunity. With costs reduced, start-ups and SMEs have a better chance of hitting the ground running.
-    Less risk. For new businesses, shorter contracts are very appealing, as they mean less initial commitment.

Looking to the future

Until recently, most landlords preferred traditional leases. This is undoubtedly changing. In order to keep up with the evolving market, landlords are offering adaptable working spaces, with some being completely or partially fitted out.
This is likely to appeal to companies across UAE, and further afield too. Businesses looking to move to the Middle East will appreciate the reduced risk involved with leasing office space, and the flexibility of a shorter-term contract too.
The relaxing of licencing requirements for the free zone in Dubai has also paved the way for more flexible terms. For example, onshore and free zone businesses are now permitted to work from the same location.
It’s probable that the market will see an increase in smaller working spaces (‘micro-units’), and flexible offices within other asset classes, such as retail zones or hotels. One thing is for sure; UAE has a reputation for adapting quickly to emerging trends, and for helping businesses to flourish.