Is 2020 the decade of the flexible office?

Is 2020 the decade of the flexible office?

According to research, flexspace makes for happier, healthier workers – and has positive effects on the local economy too – so how will this affect property decision-makers?

As we enter a new decade, it’s fair to say the world of work has changed dramatically over the past 10 years – and that means change for property decision-makers too. A large part of it is down to exponential growth in technology, which has allowed anyone to carry a powerful computer around in their pockets and granted us the ability to work from anywhere – anywhere with an internet connection, that is. Cloud computing and sophisticated software mean there’s no longer any need for employees to convene at a corporate HQ every day, which cuts the commute and does wonders for the environment in the process. At the same time, the increase in flexible working has allowed a globally minded workforce to focus on a better work/life balance, manage their time more effectively – and become happier and more productive as a result.

According to an IWG survey, these trends are set to continue into the next decade. The advent of 5G networks, greater emphasis on wellbeing, and the concept of flexwork are the three main factors set to change all our lives – and the institutional behaviour of companies all over the world. Teleworking, also known as remote working, is a model that’s already been adopted by 45% of companies, according to IWG, which found that half of the global workforce perform their duties outside of their company’s main office for at least 2.5 days a week, with over half saying they were more productive this way too.

Flexwork – and the building of new coworking spaces in which to do it – has positive effects on local economies too: the IWG study shows that a typical new flexspace brings 218 new jobs and contributes $16m (£12m) to the local economy in yearly Gross Value Add (GVA). It’s what’s known as a “sandwich economy” or trickledown effect: the creation of a new workplace naturally attracts new business and further enterprises to support them – a win-win situation for everyone involved. “When people travel to large cities, they invest their money in transportation. Instead, with proximity jobs, that expense stays close to their homes. This study shows the positive impact it has on people and the area when there are more opportunities to work closer to home,” says IWG CEO Mark Dixon.

For property decision-makers, agents and brokers, flexible working in 2020 brings a host of opportunities. The amount of flexspace you rent can be adjusted depending on your headcount, and there are no long-term contracts to worry about either. Maintenance and repairs are taken care of, and new accounting rules that require the fixed-term alternative to be entered on balance sheets do not apply here. Plus, a change of scenery tends to ward off “presenteeism”, in which an employee shows up to work but whose output is stifled by the same daily routine. Breaking it with flexspace has been shown to increase productivity, and will naturally attract the best talent when it’s clear time-management can be done in a way that suits them. In real estate, the new decade can be summed up in three words: efficiency, flexibility, productivity. Welcome to 2020!

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