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New Biz Model: Airbnb-Style Office-Space Rental

Seeing increased demand for off-site, flexible office space, a partnership hopes to find success offering short-term rentals nationwide using an Airbnb-type system.

NEW YORK – Taking advantage of growing interest in alternative office arrangements, two companies teamed up to build a coworking giant that will allow firms to rent office space whenever-wherever they need it.

IWG PLC, a flexible office operator and rival to WeWork, announced it was investing about $350 million in a venture with the Instant Group, which operates an online listing site for office space.

The combined companies’ goal: To create the world’s largest online marketplace for flexible office arrangements, which The Wall Street Journal calls the “Airbnb of office space.” Tenants will be able to easily find and book office spaces and various other corporate accommodations, including hotel meeting rooms.

Since the pandemic began, demand has grown for furnished office space with short-term leases. Many companies have embraced hybrid work schedules, which is also sparking greater interest in on-demand meeting rooms and offices that can be booked by the day or hour.

In a mid-2021 survey conducted by the property brokerage JLL, 41% of office tenants said they expect to use more flexible office space because of the pandemic. In 2020, it was only 29%.

IWG operates more than 3,000 office spaces worldwide under brands like Regus and Spaces. IWG and Instant Group say they plan to take their joint venture public within the next two years.

Still, vacancies in coworking spaces are prevalent despite growing demand, particularly in urban centers. Coworking giant WeWork Inc. said it was profitable in the fourth quarter of 2021 for the first time since the pandemic began, but a third of its space remains vacant.

Source: “Coworking Giant in Venture to Create the Airbnb of Office Space,” The Wall Street Journal (March 15, 2022) [Log-in required.]

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