In the ever-changing world of business, new terms such as scaleups and SMEs have emerged as a reference to companies that can neither be defined as startups nor corporations.

Being an international workspace provider, we don’t only care about the quality of our buildings, we also care about the wellbeing of the people using our spaces and the trends on the market that can help us to improve their experience. To better understand their needs, our internal research team has worked with the Swedish design firm Veryday to conduct in-depth qualitative research. We used ethnographic design methodologies to explore the needs of the following types of companies in Bratislava, Prague, and London:

  • scaleups – fast-growing companies with more than 20 full-time employees,
  • SMEs – steady businesses with 20-200 full-time employees,
  • corporations – firms with over 200 full-time employees.*

Different needs

We have identified the 10 main areas of needs and preferences for both scaleups and SMEs when it comes to workspace. But what are the needs that set them apart?

SMEs put a strong emphasis on special, caring services and benefits for their employees.

Corporations saw flexible space as a driver towards cultural transformation and innovations.

How about scaleups? Their company culture was given high importance – and also the need for someone to remove the operational complications that accompany fast change and growth.

Culture is of high importance for scaleups
The top 10 insights on scaleups and SMEs

From our research, we have identified that scaleups and SMEs need productive, worry-free and inspiring work environments. Here are some more detailed insights:

1. Flexible spaces
The spaces need to be easily adaptable to accommodate both individual and team work – and to be reshaped daily. Moveable and flexible furniture is one way to achieve this.

2. A wide range of spaces & multipurpose spaces
A productive work environment means that depending on the nature of the task, people have the autonomy to choose from different environments that support their work, e.g. focus rooms for high concentration tasks or collaborative creative rooms.

The design should create multipurpose spaces to support activity-based work whilst optimising space requirements. Most companies lack dedicated spaces for frequent and informal meetings, phone calls and one-to-ones. For example, the kitchen area – if large enough – can typically serve many purposes.

Focus room for individual work

3. Conference halls
From time to time, many companies also need to gather 30-50 people in a larger meeting room for internal meetings or celebrations. However, these rooms are usually unused most of the time. Thus, to maximise the use of such spaces, it is beneficial if the meeting rooms are part of the shared amenities.

4. Concise and simple invoices
Contracts and invoices with the landlord should be clear and simple with no hidden clauses or fees. Scaleups seek to reduce the administrative and planning burden due to their ever-changing nature. Keeping contracts simple also leads to an easier analysis of the total cost of office space and enables management to make faster decisions.

5. Shorter-term space planning
Companies struggle to forecast their size beyond two years. However, the market generally offers five-year contracts without break options. For this reason, some smaller companies stayed in coworking spaces past the time when it was an ideal fit to avoid administration.

For scaleups it’s difficult to forecast number of employees

6. Smooth meetings
Meeting rooms are a topic that belongs to the chapter called “frustration.” Employees showed high levels of dissatisfaction with their current meeting room experience: the process of finding, booking, and using meeting rooms. Companies expressed a strong need for a simple booking system that automatically assigns rooms based on user’s preferences and requirements, e.g. the type of space or the number of attendees.

Companies expressed a strong need for a simple booking system.

7. Sharing by regulations
Companies are willing to share meeting spaces with one another, as long as they are available, clean and serviced and users follow clearly defined rules.

8. An emphasis on internal relationships
Scaleups and SMEs are trying to build strong, collaborative cultures with great teams where working relationships also become personal friendships. But they also feel like grown-ups in high school when working in the hyper-connected coworking world – they tend to be more exclusive and show a decrease in coworking community participation.

Scaleups and SMEs are trying to build strong, collaborative cultures.

9. A visible identity
The urge to express their company’s identity is real because the culture and identity signal that they are an established enterprise. Furthermore, it also has an impact on shared identity and professionalism among employees, stakeholders and external partners.

10. Community mix
Being part of a larger, inspiring community whilst maintaining their own brand is desired to strengthen a company’s identity, culture and ability to attract and retain talent. It goes alongside the issue of access to educational events.

Expressing company’s identity signals that it is an established firm.

Needs in a nutshell

At the moment, there are flexible office business models on the market that combine elements of traditional serviced offices and coworking space providers. They usually provide fully fitted space and tenants sign up for a limited time period.

Coworking space providers mostly offer ad-hoc and very short-term memberships. Members purchase fixed or flexible workspaces and become part of a community; there is a strong focus on organised events and business support.

As identified in the research, the needs of growing companies differ from those of startups, SMEs and corporates. However, there are some common areas of interest that should be considered while designing spaces. So, when creating our new product, Qubes, which provides flexible workspaces for SMEs and scaleups, our research findings informed us how we can best support their requirements.

These companies often have a great deal of internal turbulence and changes to cope with. Hence, the environment they operate in should help make their everyday working life smoother so that they can focus on moving their business forward.

Our product Qubes provides flexible workspaces for SMEs and scaleups.


*based on our research The flexible office market – a customer’s view

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Karin Janacova

HB Reavis PR Executive&Copywriter

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