Like many businesses around the world, IWG has not escaped the impact of Covid-19 this year, particularly during the early months. “It was a chaotic time,” remembers Wayne Berger, CEO of the Americas region. “There was a lack of understanding about the virus and the way the pandemic would unfold,” he adds. “But through the chaos, we launched strategies and actions to ensure both our team members and clients were able to be truly safe in our centres.”
In March, IWG's global management teams deployed a dedicated pandemic task force to respond to any issues across the group. “They were tremendously helpful within the Americas,” says Berger. “Available 24/7, they managed every request from both team members and our clients. They prepared and rolled out protocols in relation to Covid-19 and sent out communication guidelines regarding lockdown and cleaning measures. And when a positive case of the virus occurred in an IWG centre or even within an office tower where IWG was present, the task force would execute a cleaning and disinfection protocol so the centre could operate in a safe way.”
“A testament to our teams”
In addition to these protocols, Covid-19 kits were sent to every centre with all the signage, cleaning and disinfection supplies, as well as tools that they would need to maintain the centre daily to ensure everyone’s safety.
“One of the benefits of operating the world’s largest network of flexible workspaces is that we’re able to assess local trends, align ourselves quickly and deploy important process changes and strategies with remarkable speed,” says Berger. “From the moment the pandemic hit in March, I’m proud to say that every single one of our locations in the Americas region – over 1,300 locations in 600 cities in 25 countries – remained open. That’s a testament to our teams, both globally and locally.”
Berger adds that one of most challenging aspects of this time was sifting through all of the information, and sometimes misinformation, about the pandemic – and being able to make good decisions with conviction to ensure the safety of everyone involved with IWG – as well as the future of the business.
“We had to look for the subtle trends beyond the immediate negative one so we could begin to establish a strategy to help us optimise the opportunities and set our organisation ahead of the opposition,” he says.
All in it together
In times of crisis, communication is critical. Across all regions, IWG had clear lines of communication in place, including a daily Covid-19 status update call with senior leaders and managers. “It was very important, because fear, disorganisation and confusion can set in without timely, clear, honest communications,” says Berger. “I also organised weekly live calls with every single team member in the Americas to communicate everything we were doing. We took their questions, listened to them and addressed all their concerns. It was important to let them know that we were all in it together.”
There were other ways that IWG helped its clients navigate this new world. “We knew that the pandemic was having a significant effect on their businesses and we wanted to help them alleviate some of their stresses, especially around financial costs,” he says. “We supported tens of thousands of business owners across the Americas by providing rent abatements and rent deferrals to help them during those unprecedented times.”
As for the future, the need for flexible workspace seems to have been accelerated during the pandemic. In January, 73% of companies globally were already offering a flexible or remote working solution, while more than 80% of employees said they would choose a job that offered flexible working over those that didn’t.
Now, says Berger, the world is seeing the effects of flexible working becoming mainstream. “When it comes to the future, work and workplaces are becoming ubiquitous,” he concludes. “I don’t think it’s about home or office now – the future of work is going to be about choice.”