Desks by the dozen: Larger requirements drive Chicago flex space demand

The Instant Group says demand is up 5 percent over last year

The Instant Group's Brian Childers and 625 W. Adams Street (Instant Offices, 625 W. Adams)
The Instant Group's Brian Childers and 625 W. Adams Street (Instant Offices, 625 W. Adams)

Demand for flexible workspace is on the rise in Chicago, and it’s being driven by office users needing dozens of desks, a departure from the coworking model appealing to individuals and two-person teams.

The Instant Group, a global marketplace for flexible workspace, told BisNow that demand in 2022 was expected to be 14 percent lower than last year. However, with larger companies offering hybrid and flexible working conditions, the second half of 2022 is outpacing 2021 by 5 percent.

Clients asking The Instant Group for offices with space for three or more desks increased while demand for workspace with up to two desks dropped by 24 percent, and bigger requirements are in the midst of an even more pronounced surge in demand.

Requests for offices with space for three to nine desks increased by 25 percent, while those for 10 to 25 desks was up 16 percent, and requirements of 25 or more desks jumped 33 percent, the largest leap.

“We are seeing the 0-2 workstation clients are finding they can work from home just as effectively as being in an office, while the 3-plus workstation clients are needing the cross-team collaboration time,” The Instant Group’s Brian Childers said.

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While the demand for standard office space is in flux due to the pandemic, coworking has been used by some companies still determining their real estate needs since the pandemic changed the perceived need for offices.

The Chicago area’s supply of coworking space is also up 5 percent from the same period last year, and workstation rents are averaging at $532 per desk per month, only $1 more than the same time last year.

Another signal of how the coworking business is changing emerged out of Chicago in September. WeWork announced its first partnership with a residential developer to offer flex space as an amenity to residents of a building being turned into apartments from the former Bridgeview Bank building in the Uptown neighborhood.

The financially troubled coworking firm is set to operate a 25,000-square-foot flex space within the building, as its leadership projects rising demand for such options outside of downtown cores.

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— Victoria Pruitt