Richard Morris, UK CEO, Regus
Consider the typical working day. An early start, a stressful commute to reach a fixed point before 9am, a lunchbreak – often curtailed and spent at the desk – and a tiring journey home, leaving the office at a set time to ensure that travel connections are made. Although the notion of the 9-5 working day was established in Victorian times the fact is that not much has changed regarding working structures for millions of workers throughout the UK. However, the tide is turning. Professionals across a number of industry sectors are challenging the validity of traditional workplace structures and many are embracing change.
There are several compelling factors leading business decision-makers to think more flexibly about how and where people work. Today’s business owners are re-imagining the world of work, recognising the opportunity to save money but also to develop new practices that bring the very best out of employees.
The way in which office space is consumed is developing fast. Taking space on an as-needed basis makes sense for businesses that no longer want to be locked into long-term fixed and inflexible leases. This has obvious bottom-line advantages – after all, why pay for an office with ten desks when only five are ever occupied? But it is also a strategy that enables businesses to be more agile. Flexible workspace allows businesses to scale-up or retract as operational needs dictate. Space can be taken as required – whether that means a desk, an office or an entire floor at a time – and for as many days a week as necessary rather than committing to a full-time presence. Teams or individuals can locate quickly and easily in any location, with no wait for leasing negotiations and no delays due to technical teething problems or re-location logistics.
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Such financial and logistical benefits of working flexibly are convincing but forward-thinking business owners see well beyond these advantages. Attitudes are changing; no longer is the worker asked to adapt to the workplace, rather, businesses are championing working structures that better enable employees to do their best work.
Remote working improves productivity levels by offering business people a much-needed change of scene. According to our latest research amongst over 20,000 global professionals, over half (56%) found that they were better able to concentrate when working remotely. It is important not to confuse remote working with home-working. Working near to home, in a well-designed, professionally focused workspace provides a very different experience to that of working from home – where everyday distractions are all too common and productivity can be compromised.
The same survey revealed that over a third (35%) of business managers and directors globally plan to allow their teams between one and two days to work remotely in the coming twelve months. A further 11% would allow employees to work remotely for the whole week.
In fact, those businesses not thinking in this way face the very real threat of missing out on the cream of today’s employee talent. An earlier Regus survey amongst 3000 UK professionals found that when faced with two similar jobs, more than nine in ten professionals would select the one offering flexible working. Further, more than half agreed they would “actively change job” if one with more flexible working was offered.
Managing millennial expectations
The millennial workforce comes with very different attitudes to work than previous generations. Workplace flexibility is no longer regarded as a perk – rather, it is expected. By positioning in a more agile fashion businesses can cast their recruitment net wider – location no longer being a handicap to securing the best talent.
Workers are no longer willing to accept the stress and expense of the commute and are looking at flexible working solutions that enable them to gain this time back, work nearer to home and enhance productivity. Given that today’s typical UK commuter spends an average of 8.1 hrs per week travelling to and from work – the equivalent of an entire working day – eliminating this process makes total sense. Whilst working flexibly won’t be a fit for every type of job there are millions of people across the UK for whom a more agile approach to the working day will free up extra time and enable a more measured work/life balance.
The onus is on business leaders to learn how to get the most from employees, even if they do not see them on a day-to-day basis. Today’s managers are learning to measure on results rather than ‘presenteeism’. There is certainly no excuse in terms of infrastructure. The UK now boasts some of the best-designed, most innovative workspaces in the world – a network which extends the length and breadth of the country. And these spaces are used by businesses of every size, from single-person start-ups, to global enterprises.
The flexible future
The true beauty of the flexible working model is the choice of workspace type and location. Businesses can mix and match, finding solutions that suit individuals and enabling a fluid geographical spread to suit changing strategies. A larger business might opt for some traditional city-based private office space for more senior staff members; a number of regional co-working environments for creative teams to share ideas; and meeting room space that can be hired on demand wherever it’s needed. And smaller firms might choose to position themselves right at the heart of things – a city centre address that would otherwise be unaffordable. Or individuals may choose to work on their own doorstep, choosing a professional environment over their unproductive home set-up. Businesses simply use and pay for what they want, where they want it – a way of working far removed from the fixed desk, fixed location, fixed lease model.
A growing number of business and entrepreneurs are thinking the same way. Why persist with legacy routines that are expensive, unproductive and limiting? Forward thinkers have recognised that the workspace infrastructure is in place to support a more flexible approach, to the benefit of individual employees and overall business outcomes.