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Looking for the Best Flexible Office Space Companies in NYC?

November 21, 2023

Flexible Workspace NYC

Companies that provide short-term flexible offices to rent are referred to in many ways. We usually call them "Flexible Office Companies" or simply "Flexible Offices." But they are sometimes called coworking spaces, flex offices, flexible workspace providers, serviced offices, business centers, professional office suites, and short-term office rentals, to name a few. 

hedge fund office space | office sublets

Class A office in a serviced office suites

If you're not familiar with the concept, think of it like this. A flexible office provider might lease a couple of large floors in an office building, construct the space with dozens of private offices and shared amenities like conference rooms and kitchens, furnish it all, and then rent the individual offices to various companies. And hopefully, make a profit. 

Therefore, flexible workspace companies offer turnkey office space and handle all of the day-to-day management of the facilities. Unlike a traditional office lease, where the landlord tosses you the keys and you fend for yourself, these flexible workspace providers supply everything a company needs to run a business efficiently, from refilling reams of paper for the printers to connecting with high-speed internet to stocking endless amounts of coffee and tea. An NYC flexible workspace might be a good option for your company if you need to quickly rent a furnished office in New York without the hassle and onus of a traditional office lease. 

office columbus circle | office sublets

Huge corner office in Midtown West

A Brief History of the NYC Flexible Office Market

Back in 1989, when Madonna's "Like a Prayer" was topping the radio charts and Nintendo Game Boys were all the rage, a small real estate company opened a new office space concept in Brussels, Belgium. The company offered turnkey serviced office spaces catering to the needs of small businesses. Widely recognized as the de facto capital of the European Union, Brussels proved to be the ideal launching pad for this new category of office space. A decade later, Regus opened its first office in New York City in the Helmsley Building at 230 Park Avenue, and the rest is history. 

Brussels Belgium | office sublets

The first flexible office location opened in Belgium in 1989

Many copycats soon appeared. Like Regus, these executive suites catered mostly to professional services, like attorneys and accountants. Another decade passed, and this time, a budding entrepreneur and an architect started a similar shared office concept in Dumbo, Brooklyn, called GreenDesk. Vastly different from the buttoned-up executive office suites in Midtown Manhattan, these guys created an eco-friendly coworking space with a focus on sustainability. They soon sold the company to their landlord and invested the profits into a startup called WeWork, which opened its first location in Soho at 154 Grand Street in 2010. 

Fast forward another decade, and there are a plethora of coworking clones, not just in New York City but around the globe. However, the word "coworking" is a bit of a misnomer these days. When you think of coworking, it brings to mind an open workspace with dozens of desks and people from disparate companies working elbow to elbow. That's not the case. Many coworking companies don't offer shared workspaces like that; most offer furnished offices that are completely private and dedicated to the sole use of one company. However, office amenities, like conference rooms, kitchens, and lounge areas, are shared with other companies at each location. 

rent office space penn station

Nowadays, serviced office companies rent private offices

The Covid-19 pandemic led to significant transformations within the industry. Some flexible office companies went belly-up, while others lost their leases at specific locations. In a scramble reminiscent of musical chairs, some providers seized the opportunity to take over their competitor's floundering office centers, giving new life to the flexible office space market.

The turbulent commercial real estate market also altered how most flexible office companies structure their own leases with their landlords. Before, they would simply sign a lease, just like any company that wants to rent office space. However, these days, most flex office providers form management deals with landlords. In other words, they are going into business together. The landlord supplies the office space; the flex provider manages and markets the offices; and both parties share in the profits. This arrangement offers less financial risk for the flex provider -- and perhaps less profits, too -- but it enables them to weather challenging market conditions. 

A corner office within a flex space on Avenue of the Americas

But how does this impact the companies who rent flexible offices? It gives them more stability than they would otherwise have, whether they realize it or not. Since the landlord is now in partnership with the flexible office company, it's unlikely that an office center will abruptly close. These closures have happened frequently over the past few years. They usually occur when a flexible provider is behind on rent and defaults on a lease. So, these management agreements are a win-win-win. 

Understanding the Financials of Flexible Office Spaces

The cost of flexible offices in NYC varies by building class, location, the quality and age of the office installation, and, of course, by the amount of space you rent. Internal offices (ones with no external window) rent at a discount from windowed offices. For example, if a 125 sq ft windowed office costs $2500 per month, an internal office around the same size would cost closer to $1500 per month. 

As you would expect, renting an office in a Class A Midtown office building would command a higher office rent than a lower-grade loft building in the Garment District. Expect to pay more office rent in New York if the building has impeccably dressed security guards, a double-height lobby with original artwork and marble galore, modern turnstiles with swipe-and-go capabilities, and a bank of state-of-the-art elevators with little screens playing Bloomberg News. 

one penn plaza lobby

The lobby at One Penn Plaza, a Class A Building on 34th St.

How flexible office companies charge for their services has changed over the years. Almost all have moved away from the nickel-and-dime billing approach to a more all-inclusive system. Tenants strongly prefer all-inclusive rent because who wants to be told one price for office rent, only to find out later that internet, cleaning, and coffee are extra? Just keep it simple. 

Price Per Square Foot

On a square-foot basis, the price of a flexible office might seem astronomical. But you need to make sure you're comparing apples to apples. The price per square foot on a traditional office space only includes the base rent -- nothing else. The price of a flex office generally includes everything: internet, phones, furniture, cleaning, electricity, taxes, kitchen supplies, reception services, IT support, and conference room usage. Keep in mind that there is no office loss factor on the quoted square footage of a flexible office like there is for traditional offices. 

So, to compare the two by price per square foot, you'd need to figure out a way to reduce the value of these services from the price per square foot for that metric to have any real meaning. And that's not possible to do in any meaningful way. I would forget about the price per square foot and focus on the all-inclusive monthly or annual price. Compare it to the total price and value of your other options. 

comparing office space | office sublets

Make sure you're comparing apples to apples

Conference Rooms

Conference room usage is usually handled in one of two ways. The most common is the credit system. Tenants are allotted a certain amount of conference room credits per month. The size of the conference room and the amount of time reserved dictates the number of credits required. The number of monthly credits you receive as a tenant is based on the size or price of your office space. Credits don't roll over, so use them or lose them. 

The second way flexible office providers handle conference room usage is simply pay-as-you-go. A large conference room might cost $100 per hour, with the ability to book it in 15- or 30-minute increments. So, if you rented the conference room for 45 minutes, you'd be billed $75. You do not have to pay at the time of use, as your monthly billing statement will reflect the conference room charges.

phone booths | office sublets

Many flexible office companies have shared phone rooms 

Minimal Security Deposits

When renting a New York office, your company must provide the landlord with a security deposit. Traditional office leases and subleases usually require more security than an agreement with a flexible office provider. The security deposit is commonly perceived as a safeguard against potential office damage, serving as a means to offset any related repair costs. However, there is another reason for the security deposit, which is a hot button for landlords. 

If the tenant defaults on the lease and stops paying rent, the landlord will want the tenant to vacate the office immediately. But this could take a while if the tenant is uncooperative. Why does it take so long to evict a non-paying tenant? Well, the landlord must legally evict a non-paying tenant, and it can take months in the court system and incur a hefty legal fee from their attorney. To hedge against this scenario, landlords require sufficient security deposits if your company signs an office lease in NYC. The exact amount depends on the company's creditworthiness. The starting point is a 3-month security deposit for an established company with a multi-year track record, strong financials, and a Good-Guy Guarantee

signing office lease nyc | office sublets

Flexible office companies do not require Good-Guy Guarantees.

But how much is the security deposit for a flexible office in NYC? Most flexible office companies require a 2-month security deposit. The reason it's less than the amount a landlord requires is because a flexible office does not have to legally evict their tenants. They can simply deactivate the tenant's building access cards and prevent their employees from entering the building. Without getting too granular, the agreement you sign with a flexible office provider -- called an office license agreement -- does not offer the same legal protections to the tenant as a New York City office lease. Therefore, the flex office provider can accept lower security deposits than a traditional landlord because they don't have to worry about a tenant squatting in an office space for the next six months. 

Comparing the Top Flexible Office Spaces in New York City

The top flexible office spaces in NYC all have one thing in common. They're all located in Class A office buildings. These locations provide an excellent opportunity for small companies who otherwise would be unable to rent an office in a Class A building because even the entry-level office spaces are much larger than they require. 

office columbus circle | office sublets

The best flexible offices are in Class A buildings

Of the 300 or so flexible offices in NYC, only a few dozen are considered high-end offices suitable for sophisticated hedge funds, financial services, and private equity firms. Client-facing firms are usually more concerned about renting Class A offices than those that do not meet with clients face-to-face. Many of these companies think their clients might be reluctant to invest their hard-earned cash with a firm that does not look successful.  

Most of these Class A office buildings tower over Midtown Manhattan and are dotted along major arteries like Avenue of the Americas, Fifth Avenue, Park Avenue, and 57th Street. These top-tier offices occupy high tower floors and have views suitable for a Master of the Universe, to quote Tom Wolfe. 

Here are a few of the best serviced offices in New York City:

conference room | office sublets

Sophisticated conference rooms are common in Class A office buildings

It's tough to compare these flexible offices with each other because they all have similar attributes, such as highly desirable locations, first-class lobbies, premium office renovations, and a wealth of amenities. The decision to rent one over another will likely come down to the convenience of the building's location, the current office availability, and the office rent and current incentives. 

The Epicenter of NYC Flexible Workspaces

There are more professionally managed office spaces in Midtown Manhattan than any other neighborhood in New York -- and probably the world. There are many reasons, but the main one is the immense concentration of office buildings. With so much office density, there are bound to be considerable options for flexible offices in Midtown.

Transportation Hub

Midtown is home to the premier transportation hub in NYC: Grand Central Terminal. While Penn Station is the busiest commuter hub in the city, more C-suite executives pass through Grand Central. Remember Don Draper rolling down from Westchester on the New Haven Line? When these folks arrive in Manhattan, they do not want to venture too far because they have a return train to catch at the end of the day. And remember, they're the decision-makers and the ones signing the leases. 

And now the Long Island Railroad terminates at Grand Central, too. Commuters who would have disembarked on the west side at 34th Street now have direct access to the east side at 42nd St. It's a game changer and has further bolstered the popularity of Grand Central offices.

grand central nyc | office sublets

Grand Central connects Metro North, LIRR, and the subway

Prestigious Addresses

Would you feel more comfortable investing your portfolio with a company on Park Avenue or Canal Street? Of course, there are more important things than an address. After all, one of the most infamous investment swindlers of all time had offices in the prestigious Lipstick Building in Midtown. But if you knew nothing else about the company, you'd have to choose Park Avenue. 

And there are many addresses in Midtown that would pop on a business card. Anything on Avenue of the Americas, Fifth Avenue, or Madison Avenue would sound impressive. There aren't any other avenues or streets in NYC that carry as much cachet. So, if you're looking for hedge fund office space, focus your attention on the primary avenues in Midtown.


Proximity to Clients

Many prominent companies, such as J.P. Morgan Chase, CitiGroup, Morgan Stanley, Deloitte, and AIG, have their headquarters in Midtown. The central Manhattan location creates more networking and client relations opportunities. For many firms, there is also the perception of "this is where you're supposed to be." A prestigious investment firm might be horrified to tell their clients to visit their office in Kips Bay. 

Midtown has a high concentration of best-in-class hotels and restaurants. So when your principal investor flies in from his cattle ranch in Dubuque, he can zip between The St. Regis, Le Bernardin, and your office at Rockefeller Center without breaking a sweat. And upscale retail stores are abundant in Midtown, too, so it's a cinch to buy a gift at Cartier on Fifth Ave for the Mrs.


client dinners in midtown | office sublets

Midtown offers hundreds of dining options for client entertainment

In conclusion, flexible office providers offer a convenient solution for companies seeking short-term office rentals in NYC. These spaces, often furnished and managed, provide everything a business needs to operate efficiently. As the demand for flexible workspaces continues to grow, especially in prime locations like Midtown Manhattan, these offices remain an attractive option for companies who value lease flexibility, lower startup costs, and move-in-ready offices.