For years, businesses have worked hard to snag coveted office space in downtown Seattle. There are many benefits to being close to the action in this bustling city, but they often come with trade-offs like cost-prohibitive rents or crowded, less-than-ideal spaces. For start-ups, these challenges may prevent them from establishing themselves in the city or cause them to opt for temporary co-working spaces instead. However, since many of Seattle’s local titans like Amazon and Starbucks are reevaluating their use of office space in the city, there may be new opportunities on the horizon for the city’s smaller businesses.

The first major shift in many companies’ approach to office space is the idea that every employee may not need a dedicated desk in the office. A new trend, aptly called “hoteling,” saves space by creating more communal workspaces in the office that are shared by employees who may be working remotely more often than not. When they need to come into the office, instead of having their own desk, employees can simply reserve a desk or workspace for as long as they need it.

The result of this practice is that companies can approach reopening in a safe manner by having fewer employees in the office at any one time, while saving space (and potentially cutting costs) on the amount of office space needed at any one time. Starbucks recently announced that it will be implementing hoteling practices in its headquarters as it undergoes a year-long redesign. The end goal of its renovation is more communal spaces and more casual collaborative workspaces — reminiscent of the iconic coffeehouses run by the company.

But hoteling also has an added benefit for the smaller businesses of Seattle. While large companies like Amazon and Starbucks can save money by reducing the amount of office space they require, smaller businesses have new opportunities to sublet facilities in downtown Seattle. Scrappy start-ups are often no strangers to flexible work arrangements (think co-working spaces and remote offices), but the ability to be centrally located in the heart of a major city is nothing to sniff at. Subleasing a dedicated office space suggests that a company is established, with a commitment to staying in business and growing — something that is attractive to tech workers in a competitive market.

Although the pandemic may have altered business-as-usual in Seattle, make no mistake that business is still booming. As smaller businesses continue to prioritize locking down physical office space in the city, there is reason yet to believe that the pandemic has not stopped the fast pace of business and life in Seattle.

This article was originally posted on KUOW by Joshua McNichols.

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