As businesses evolve to accommodate ‘Generation Flex’, property directors must proactively revisit their company’s office portfolio
What’s a typical working day like for you? For a rapidly growing number of us, it doesn’t involve a long commute to a fixed office, where we’ll sit from nine to six. Not anymore.
More than half of global employees are now working outside their main office headquarters for at least two-and-a-half days a week, according to research from IWG – the parent company of flexible workspace provider Regus.
For corporate real estate directors (CREs), adding flexible workspace to their portfolio would be a smart move, as demand from ‘Generation Flex’ continues to rocket and the global way of working transforms.
“There’s a shift taking place today, where it’s getting harder and harder for companies to commit to space in the long term because things are changing so quickly,” says Vincent Lottefier, Founder and President of Co-Working Future, and advisor to IWG. “Most business unit managers don’t really know what they’ll need three or four years from now. Conversely, the typical length of lease in the UK, for example, is more than ten years.
“On top of this, there’s massive pressure on CREs to source property that’s sexy and exciting – to attract talent and make employees productive – but that’s also cost-effective. And while they’re committing long term, they need to be agile in the short term.”
At the start of 2019, the IWG Global Workspace Survey asked more than 15,000 businesspeople from more than 80 countries about how the workplace is changing. It explored reasons for choosing flexible working and how international businesses are using flexspace to their advantage.
What really resonated in IWG’s findings is how this once unconventional way of working is now being embraced as part of company culture in 2019 – and how it’s driving positive results. In fact, 62% of companies surveyed said they now have a flexible workspace policy. And 75% of respondents said they felt flexible working is “the new normal”.
The IWG survey found that flexible working is dramatically helping companies run more efficiently. Sixty-five per cent of businesses said that having flexible workspace reduces their costs, helps them manage risk better and consolidate their portfolio. What’s more, it estimates that flexible working could boost the US economy by $4.5trn annually.
For corporate real estate directors, changes in the way we work will cause them to evolve their practice beyond the status quo, follow their company’s growth more closely and think outside the box. “Whereas two years ago, many CREs would find it too risky to look at anything other than conventional traditional lease terms, I would say today that those who don’t look proactively at their portfolio and see how much of it could turn into flexible space take a greater risk.
“Many businesses are saying that, in the near future, they’ll have 20-30% of their real estate footprint in flexible serviced arrangements compared with traditional leases. Today, the average is 98% conventional office space (against 2% flexible workspace), and they’re saying this is going to shrink to 70%. Which is a massive growth potential for a company like IWG.”
It’s important to find a flexspace that works well for your company’s specific needs. IWG has a broad portfolio of brands to ensure that CREs find the right match for their business: Regus, Spaces, Signature by Regus, HQ and No18. As well as the signature style and service that comes with each of these brands, IWG shares its expertise with property directors throughout the journey – from set-up to operational support. So it really is a partnership from start to finish.
In 2019, it’s clear that the flexible working is here to stay – and the needs of ‘Generation Flex’ are shaking things up. “Disruption can make people anxious because it can be perceived as leaving many behind – if you look at what Netflix has done to Blockbuster, or if you use the examples all the way back to the industrial revolution,” says Lottefier.
“What I find about the flexible working disruption is that, actually, it’s great for everybody. If we take a very proactive approach in engaging with it, we should not leave anyone behind. If you take it seriously and invest into it, it can be a great outcome for all.”