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Innovation and Adaptation: The Path of First Workplaces in the Flex sector.

Introduction

We spoke with Óscar García, founder of First Workplaces, a pioneering company in the shared workspace sector, born in Madrid in 2009 as Busining and renamed in 2019 with its current name. With a unique vision and extensive industry experience, Oscar has led the growth and expansion of First Workplaces, providing flexible and modern solutions for professionals and companies of all sizes.

What inspired the creation of First Workplaces and how have you evolved over the years?

Since I was a child, I have always considered myself a person with a strong vocation to have my own company, so I studied business and management and worked for others for a while, but I knew that at some point I would take the leap and set up my own business.
In 2006, together with my brother, we founded a graphic design agency. However, our interests soon led us to explore other markets and it was in 2009 when the topic of coworking and Flex Offices came up. We had an extra table in our office and a friend who needed a place to work offered to pay a fee to use the desk. After that I thought, “this could be a good business”.
I started researching the market and discovered business centers and coworking spaces in other cities such as London and New York. I was impressed by its success and thought it might be the right time to bring this trend to Spain. This is how we founded First Workplaces with an international vision and focused on providing services to international corporate companies.
Our beginnings were as a traditional business center, but little by little we adapted to the needs of our clients. Over time, we evolved towards a more flexible model, becoming a flexible office. The demand of our clients, most of them multinationals, drove us to grow and offer larger and more adaptable spaces.

In a competitive market of shared workspaces, what would you say is the key differentiating factor of First Workplaces?

I would say there are two. The first lies in customer service and the personalization of our services. We strive to understand the specific needs of each client and offer them a workspace that perfectly suits their requirements. In fact, we are the company with the highest ratio of receptionist per client in the industry, which allows us to offer you whatever you need: from catering or coffee service, to a company Christmas dinner with gifts for employees. On the other hand, the second differentiating factor would be our locations. All our spaces are located in prime locations and on recognized streets. In Madrid, for example, we have four centers in the Castellana; in Barcelona we have one in Rambla Cataluña; and in Malaga, in the same Calle Larios. This allows us to attract the client profile for which First Workplaces is most targeted and which most appreciates the location factor: multinationals or start-up entrepreneurs.

What consequences has the rise of teleworking had for your centers and what strategies do you (yourselves or your tenants) implement to encourage users to come to the office more?

Teleworking has been a challenge for our centers and, to some extent, we consider it “unfair competition”. After the pandemic, many companies opted to keep their employees working from home, which led to a loss of important values such as engagement and creativity. This situation affected not only Flex spaces, but also traditional offices.
Today, we continue to work on strategies that generate a more attractive and motivating environment and, in turn, encourage workers to return to the office; such as more collaborative areas, differentiated meeting rooms and other additional amenities that serve as an incentive. For example, in one of our centers, we have opened a spectacular terrace overlooking the Castellana that has been very well received during the good weather.
However, we understand that the most important thing to motivate people to return to the office is the relationship with their colleagues and the generation of value through direct contact. Therefore, we seek to create an environment that fosters collaboration and connection between members of the companies, as we believe this is fundamental to boost productivity and well-being in the workplace.

We imagine that your vision of the Flex sector has changed over the years, what was your vision at the beginning and what is it now?

When we started this adventure in the sector, the perception was that it was not professionalized. Customer service was limited to having a fax to send documents. At that time, we saw a big difference between the centers in Spain and those in cities like London, where they were at another level in terms of investment and design.
However, over the years, we have seen a great evolution. Although there are still differences in investment capacity, Flex centers in Spain have become more professional and customer-focused. As of today, I would say that there is no great disparity in terms of management and customer service compared to centers in other cities, which is a very positive thing and shows the great progress we have made.
Personally, I believe that the sector will continue to grow in our country and that there is much to be done in terms of innovation and adaptation to social and labor changes. As part of the Real Estate sector, we must be constantly evolving. One of the most significant changes I see in the future is the adoption of management contracts, similar to the hotel model, to provide greater service to both building owners and tenants. This approach will allow for greater flexibility and adaptability to meet the demands of an ever-changing market.

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