What we've learned from 2020 so far

Founded in 2016 by entrepreneurs frustrated by the burdens of a long-term lease, we set out to change the commercial real estate industry to fit with the demands of modern, high-growth companies. Over the years, Knotel has grown to meet companies’ needs for flexible real estate across the world, but nobody could have foreseen a year like 2020.

2020 has been a year of transformational events, two of which have had a resounding impact on the way Knotel works: the COVID-19 pandemic and the mass movement to dismantle systemic racial injustice. Both events have impacted how we think about our business, our employees, and the employees of our customers around the world.

Read on to learn more about our biggest takeaways from 2020 so far.

The show must go on: Adapting our products & approach

Business continuity

As offices around the world closed due to COVID-19 lockdown, we knew the nature of work, and therefore workspace, would change forever. In late March, we quickly got to work, ensuring our customers were safely navigating office shutdowns across our global markets.

As we tended to our customers, we were also facing our own challenges brought on by COVID-19. We’ve become leaner and reevaluated our portfolio to ensure we’re making smarter capital investments, allowing us to more efficiently and effectively serve our customers. We’re investing in partnerships with owners across the globe, to help them monetize their space while servicing our enterprise customer base through management deals.

New products

To address some of our customers’ temporary workspace needs, we’ve introduced workspace products that are faster and shorter-term. For our own team, we’re experimenting with the concept of touchdown hubs, in which a company utilizes several workspaces throughout a city to accommodate ample social distancing, with the hopes of providing this solution to other customers in need.

Our workplace strategists are envisioning and designing the purpose-driven workspaces of the future. Our research has shown that purpose-driven, experience-based workspaces for collaboration will be key in maximizing the future return on the office.

New process

When COVID-19 hit, many companies experienced first-hand how long-term leases are not only financially burdensome, but will likely not suit the workforce’s new need for flexibility in the future. We noticed that companies across the world did not fully understand all the ways they could incorporate flexible solutions into their strategy, which prompted us to change how we ourselves do business.

We’ve now introduced “Discovery” as a key phase in our process, during which we engage deeply with a customer to holistically understand how they work, what their needs are, and what their goals are for the future. After this, we’re able to match customers to the right workspace solutions, tailored to their needs, and manage the space and complexity throughout their time with us.

Dream teams: Improving our internal structure

The sudden transition to complete remote work has also forced us to change the way we work. To help ensure we’re breaking down silos and ensuring continuous communication (especially as remote work makes the organic exchange of ideas and projects more difficult) we’ve established cross-functional teams dedicated to achieving strategic goals across the company.

Listening to our customers

Our team collected quantitative and qualitative feedback from customers to understand how employees were impacted by suddenly having to work from home, as well as how the office must change for the future. We hosted our first virtual roundtable series to enable customers across our markets to learn from each other and exchange ideas about how to manage the impact of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, our customer success teams worked closely with each individual customer, guiding them through shutdowns and reopenings, sprinting to devise health and safety solutions, and even helping some customers exit their current workspaces and enter new ones. Our implementation teams across the globe had a particularly herculean task: adapting build-outs by working with vendors and customers virtually, in accordance with local regulations, to deliver workspaces on time.

Safety first: Upgrading our products & services

As localities began lifting shutdowns and allowing people to return to the office, we implemented various health and safety measures to ensure our customers feel safe within their spaces.

  • Sanitation stations placed at strategic locations throughout workspaces
  • Heightened nightly cleaning practices in accordance with expert guidance provided by institutions such as the CDC
  • Tailored wayfinding signage to ensure the safe flow of traffic and proper social distancing within our customers’ spaces
  • A Return to Workspace guide that offers health and safety guidance, including ways to gradually bring employees back to the workspace
  • Additional cleaning procedures for purchase depending on our customers’ preferences

Becoming an antiracist company

We have looked inward to identify our own role in the mission to dismantle systemic racism. We listened to our people, provided space for our employees to speak up, and made a commitment to becoming an anti-racist company.

Internally, we have launched a cross-functional team, Antiracist Knotel, to ensure that voices across the company are actively contributing to goal-setting and providing feedback as we move forward.

Externally, we launched the Knotel Diversity Series — conversations with D&I leaders from major enterprises such as Netflix, SAP, and Pfizer. We will continue to elevate the voices of leaders committed to diversity and inclusion so that we can all learn and do better.

The future is (still) flex

The COVID-19 pandemic has further emphasized the value and importance of integrating flexible workspace solutions into corporate real estate strategies. As well as solving for uncertainty, it helps companies stay nimble, manage risk, free-up cash flow, and enable people to do their best work. Recent industry projections show that flex office space will comprise nearly 30% of the CRE market by the close of the decade, so we remain optimistic that the factors driving this explosive growth will continue well after the pandemic, as companies prioritize employee safety and operational flexibility.

We’re excited for what the future holds, especially as we overcome the challenges of COVID-19. We want to make sure your people and company are prepared to hit the ground running when you choose to return to the workspace. Despite the ongoing uncertainty, we can be sure that flexibility, agile real estate portfolios, shorter leases, and workspaces focused on employee experience, health and wellbeing, will continue well after the pandemic. We’re building for this future, both in the near and long-term, and are helping our customers get there.

Wherever you are in your workplace journey, we want to help.