Case Study » How Canvas’ FD and CEO are redefining remote-hybrid workspaces

How Canvas’ FD and CEO are redefining remote-hybrid workspaces

Canvas FD and CEO explain how they are evolving the hybrid/remote working space business model to remain competitive in the ‘back to work’ era

Over the course of the past three years, a contentious debate has been underway between labour and management regarding the return to in-person work.

With the advent of pandemic-induced remote work, many employees have grown accustomed to the flexibility it affords them and are now engaged in a fierce battle with employers who are eager to see them return to their physical workspaces.

The two sides are at odds, and a resolution to this impasse remains elusive.

While some companies – like Goldman Sachs, Amazon and Starbucks to name a few – are eager to bring their employees back to the office, others are exploring new ways of working that prioritise flexibility and safety.

Canvas, a provider of flexible working spaces, falls into the latter category. Led by CEO Oren Rosenblum, Canvas faces unique challenges in navigating this rapidly evolving landscape.

“Our ethos from the inception of the company is to ‘feel at home at work’. This is what we want our clients to feel, we want them to get into the space and for it to feel familiar,” Rosenblum tells The CFO.

A sense of community has long been missing from the world of business, but the new-age workplace looks to challenge the status quo.

Updating the work environment 

For the past decade, the way we work has been changing, exacerbated by events in the past three years. At the beginning of the pandemic, employers assumed workers would be out of the office for a few weeks – this soon turned to months, and for many, years.

Employees came to love their remote working spaces – whether at home at their dining table, or dedicated home office – and have since refused to let go as many employers now call their teams back to the office.

At the height of the Great Resignation and staff shortages in many industries, it made sense for organisations to accommodate employee demands if they wanted to attract and retain staff. But as the economy has begun to slow, employers have regained some of their former power and request a change, despite the continued desire from employees for greater flexibility.

Along with the rise in ‘as-a-service’ providers, business owners are becoming accustomed to the idea of a modular-style workplace giving them the ability to run a leaner operation and save money. However, remote working is not a model that suits everyone, and there are certain benefits of working in an office that you can’t get at home.

“I think that a lot of those processes were accelerated a bit too fast”, says Rosenblum. While most businesses will probably never go back to a fully office-based work model, “there will be some kind of middle ground that still needs to be established,” he says.

This is where flexible office spaces can provide a solution; allowing smaller businesses to flourish by providing all of the benefits of an office, without the rigidity of a traditional lease.

“Traditional leases have often been more expensive, and the space is either too big or too small, so …especially … [for] SMEs, they … are not able to scale up or scale down rapidly as the needs of the business change”, explains Canvas financial director Jasmer Singh.

These cumbersome overheads, as well as balancing running costs, staffing, and ensuring adequate facilities, can be difficult to manage within the confines of a long-term lease arrangement.

Canvas’ new office space in London will open mid-August, offering 11 different businesses the opportunity to work in the new space

“Our industry loves to try to find ways to trick people. Let’s say you forget to give notice, [the contract] will renew for [another] 12 months,” explains Rosenblum.

“[At Canvas] if someone is under contract and they want to leave, we do everything that we can in order to enable them to leave […] because you don’t want to tie people into a place that they don’t want to be.”

However, feeling tied down is not the only issue with traditional office leases, and many commercial landlords are failing to adapt to the needs of the modern workplace.

Canvas is working hard to address these issues and provide its clients with the spaces they need to grow.

Redesigning workplaces with the customer in mind

So what makes Canvas’ business model different to the likes of WeWork and other remote working giants operating in the market?

“[The first] simple thing that most of our competitors are not giving is natural light, openable, windows,” says Rosenblum.

In most office-shares clients are given small units in generic blocks and forced to fight for usable space.

“We tend to focus on private offices, offering clients their own dedicated space within our buildings, [which] gives them a feeling of having their own space as opposed to just working at a hot desk all day,” says Singh.

“Each person works a bit differently, this is why we’re listening to the clients and trying to understand [how they] want to work.”

Canvas’ team are fully aware some clients will want a lot of breakout areas, while other will want a lot of creative spaces. Somme clients will only want desks. Whereas a lot of Canvas’ competitors will offer their clients a template – often dictated by what they feel they want, Canvas’ business model has evolved to offer new products.

Ensuring business models are sustainable

“Intelligence over indulgence is one of our biggest pillars,” says Rosenblum, which is another way that Canvas differs from the typical offerings.

Most developers seeking new spaces find unloved and underutilised buildings and demolish them, which from an environmental perspective is extremely wasteful and expensive.

Canvas takes these buildings and invests in renovating them. Not only does this save on unnecessary pollution, but it also helps preserve the character of urban areas and these often historically significant buildings.

However, this low-waste ethos doesn’t only extend to real-estate.

“[Canvas] are working very hard [to inspire] a lean [work] culture in order to offer a better-quality service for a lower price,” says Rosenblum. “I think that this is something very important mainly for the decision makers and to the people who need to pay the money.”

Not only this, but traditional office leases can be extremely one-dimensional, leaving tenants to manage their own utilities, business rates, and equipment hire. Canvas aims to remove these barriers by providing a full-service product, that can be adapted based on the needs of the business, with a fully transparent monthly price.

“We’re addressing that flexibility and taking away a lot of the hassle of [clients] having their own space,” explains Singh, making for a much more streamlined service.

Building blocks for a truly flexible business landscape

It is clear that Canvas really has the needs of its customers at the forefront, wanting to provide a flexible space for businesses to grow and change without being tied to one location or working style.

“Going forward, there is definitely scope and an opportunity to offer more services, be it tying up with other service providers, for example, accountancy, legal, etc.,” explains Singh.

“To offer a bit more of a rounded services to clients who don’t necessarily know who to approach when they need certain things.”

Both Rosenblum and Singh have aims for the business to offer these options in the future, expanding the bespoke nature of their office spaces to provide a truly seamless service: a modern workplace that removes all barriers to productivity and allows businesses the freedom to design their workplaces exactly how they want them.

Truly flexible, no surprises.



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