Flexible working spaces are set to grow by up to 30% annually for the next five years across Europe, according to property firm Jones Lang Lasalle and as reported on The BBC
We are seeing a considerable cultural shift in the way we work and the hours we spend in the working environment. Flexible working coupled with physical changes in the way offices are laid out is revolutionising the demands of our workforces today and into the future.
A Stockport employee said:
“The fact my company provides for flexible working allows me to be more productive. By being able to manage my personal responsibilities makes me more productive rather than worrying about home life and things I needed to do.
“To have a few minutes to sort insurance, arrive after 9am to sort hectic family life out, attend children’s school events without holiday forms and a genuine feeling that my employer cares about all aspects of my life, makes for a more productive and loyal team worker.”
Benefits to employers are retention and reduced turnover of staff, a sense of belonging and greater connection to the company. There are also environmental benefits – less cars on the road, pollution – a great asset of you are the more environmentally focussed business.
PwC recently tells news staff they can choose the hours they work.
It’s not just the amount of hours we work, it’s where we work.
Cafés have become popular meeting points, virtual board rooms and common work places for a wide range of people who can work remotely, agile, flexible or from home.
Free fruit, beer, astro turfed offices and a slide down to the carpark could be the future but are they sustainable and do they provide easily identifiable productivity benefits?
Rhys Owen of Orbit Developments comments:
“Whenever a ‘new, exciting brand’ enters the business arena, there is a rush to adopt their ‘modern’ way of working and experience the quirks: the free beers, relaxed office environments and creative break-out areas. But very quickly these quirks can stop becoming important to the micro business that’s fighting to get established and survive from an idea conceived in the back bedroom. Equally, the larger companies, who often need a short term space for a project or to house a team between long term moves, will always go for the easy choice as has been the foundation of many of the serviced office operators over the last 20 years.
“The new approach that the likes of WeWork bring will have an impact on other providers, including ourselves, and it is sensible to keep an eye on your own house and active competition always helps with keeping you on your toes.
“Whilst there has been a growth in what was an almost none existent market for hot desks and shared space a few years ago, I don’t yet see this as an area of major growth especially around the outskirts of the city centre; backed up by the lack of growth in serviced office providers in recent years.
“We continue to see strong activity for start up companies and existing growing SME’s seeking flexible physical offices as opposed to shared desk space. Whilst we will always keep an eye on the competition and look to stay relevant, we must look at our current customers needs and those of the local market rather than be distracted by the new ‘shiny’ offer.
“Whilst it’s certainly true many employers are offering greater flexibility in working patterns and are looking for added value in the premises they rent for their employees, that has resulted in customers thinking more about desk numbers as they are in effect providing their own hot desk space for staff to call into the office when needed. This can mean they need less space than they had thought and provides cost savings as a result. Being able to offer a range of space sizes and options is key to helping a young business to grow into the long term relationship with their property partner.
“The steps we introduced in Stockport, and subsequently other areas such as Eccles and Macclesfield, have improved our own offer and the results back that up. The one thing any office customer wants is certainty of whom their landlord will be and what the future of their building holds, that way they know they can focus on their business and develop a truly healthy landlord and customer relationship.
“Offices are like fashions, one minute open plan is in fashion next its heavily cellular that’s all the rage, so never say never but it’s yet to be seen if Greater Manchester is really ready for the supposed “boom” seen across the pond.”
Likewise, Fairhurst Estates has changed the way staff work to match current requirements. John Thornley, Managing Director explains:
“We at Fairhurst are seeing working patterns change and we are changing the ways we work away from the standard 9-5 which is long dead. Existing staff, and more particularly younger Millennials, want a different work life balance. We offer flexible working and see this as a real benefit in retaining/attracting new staff.”
“Flexible working seems to be the key; commitments for the long term seem to be waning in favour of more flexibility and less formal hours.
“We manage serviced offices and have seen demand soar over the past few years, after all why would you want to sign up to a long term lease when your business might change completely in 12 months’ time? More meeting rooms and less individual offices is definitely the trend and here to stay in my view.”