Richard Morris, CEO, IWG UK explores how the growing appetite for flexible working has driven the real estate revolution over the last five years
There are several key reasons for the boom in flexible working. Firstly, digitalisation, which has completely changed the way people are working. The rapid acceleration of technology has changed what’s possible. More and more people own smartphones and the cloud has grown exponentially. This has enabled us to work differently than we did before. It’s now easier than ever to plug in and work from anywhere.
Secondly, there’s an environmental factor. Companies are increasingly starting to embrace flexible working to cut commuting. This appeals to employees and business leaders alike. By allowing workers to set up at a location closer to home, and cut down on commuting, millions of tonnes of carbon could be saved each year – as much as 7.8m tonnes by 2030, according to a socio-economic study from Regus. With an environment in crisis, offering flexible working isn’t just a business or personal imperative, but one that also benefits the planet.
These drivers are distinctly global in nature, as is the demand. IWG’s customer-base counts 2.5 million people in over 110 countries, many of whom are companies turning to communal work hubs rather than investing in their own bricks and mortar offices.
The business benefits of flexible working
Businesses feel they can hire more people and people will be more productive if they are working in a well-designed space that is nearer to where they live. It is also what employees themselves want. New generations coming into workplace don’t want to spend as much time commuting and they want to have a good workplace with a good community.
In fact, our research revealed that a third of Brits believe flexible working is so important, they would prioritise it over having a more prestigious role. What’s more, eight in 10 UK businesses see flexible working as a measure to improve talent retention.
Changing the shape of the real estate industry
Another driver for this change shaping the real estate industry is the accountancy regulation IFRS 16, enforced at the beginning of the year, requiring companies to measure, present and disclose leases. This has changed everything for mid-sized companies and large-sized companies. Lots of businesses are complaining about this. But flexible working is a solution, as it’s not on the balance sheet.
What’s more, the flexible workspace market is growing rapidly, with some forecasts predicting that up to 30% of corporate real estate portfolios could be flexible workspace by 2030.
The new way of working
There are a number of key reasons for why people are increasingly gravitating towards flexible working. This has led to companies becoming more agile as flexible working has challenged traditional real estate models.