The office model is not dead, says one of Dublin’s flexible workspace providers – which is banking on a return to bring it back to full occupancy.
Huckletree, a company with five locations across the UK and one on Dublin's Pearse Street, says it is seeing increased demand from Irish businesses for membership that would allow their teams to work via the hybrid model. Current tenants include specialist technology bank Silicon Valley Bank, and cryptocurrency exchange platform CoinMama.
Huckletree opened in Dublin in 2017, with a mission of being the best place in the city to grow and scale a tech business, and quickly grew its occupancy to 100 per cent.
However, the flexible workspace model worldwide has been hit hard by the pandemic. With work spaces closed or with limited access last year, as well as for much of this, flexible lease options allowed some to stop their rental agreements easier than if they had been in long-term contracts.
IWG, owner of Regus, which offers a number of serviced offices in Dublin, earlier this month warned of lower than expected earnings and a delay to its recovery as the coronavirus pandemic drags on, while WeWork, the behemoth of the space, has also struggled. It reported a $3.2 billion loss last year, after it said that occupancy rates fell to 47 per cent at the end of 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic.
At Huckletree, occupancy fell back during the pandemic, but is starting to pick up again, as workers slowly return to offices, with 65 companies currently working in the space.
It has looked to offer more flexibility as an incentive to get people and companies back to offices.
"We're definitely a lot more flexible," says Aislinn Mahon, general manager of Huckletree Dublin, adding that this approach has seen the introduction of day passes as well as the lengthening of the hours of accessibility to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The location on Pearse Street, where rates start at € 25 a day for a day pass, rising to € 695 per desk per month in a private studio, is seeing increased demand from businesses that want their staff back in the office a certain number of days a week, with Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the busiest days .
“Right now our focus is very much on our existing space, to really get that back up to 100 per cent occupancy,” says Mahon, but growth is still on the agenda, with the company actively looking for new locations.
“We’re really seeing a trend towards a flexible approach to workspace, and we haven’t shied away from growth plans. But it really depends on the space itself,” she says, noting that it is “really about the quality of the space for us”.