The world of work is changing, as are businesses’ real estate needs. But there’s a huge opportunity for brokers in the shift to hybrid working, and a raft of new ways you can help your clients.
After more than a year of lockdowns, social distancing, and worry, vaccination programmes around the world are helping businesses take cautious steps back towards normality. But, as the Covid-19 crisis recedes, it’s becoming clear that there’s a ‘new normal’ for companies to navigate.
During the pandemic, more people worked remotely than ever before – and research has highlighted the positive effects of this flexibility on employees’ work-life balance, as well as businesses’ bottom lines and carbon footprints. According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, 85% of adults who worked from home during periods of lockdown now want to continue splitting their time between working remotely and at the company HQ.
All in all, it’s little wonder that hybrid working – a model that allows workers to divide their time between home, the company office, and a third location such as a nearby flexible workspace – is proving popular with businesses as diverse as NTT, Standard Chartered, and Cisco. These three firms are among many who’ve signed enterprise deals with IWG in 2021, providing their employees with access to its worldwide network of flexible workspaces. Altogether, more than a million new users have been welcomed to IWG locations across the globe in the first half of this year, with a further million expected in the coming months.
At the same time as inking deals for flexible workspace, many firms are downsizing their real estate footprints. Organisations including JP Morgan Chase, Lloyds Banking Group and HSBC have all announced plans to scale back office space.
It’s therefore key for brokers to consider how offering flexible workspace solutions might fit into their own business plans, broadening the range of options available to clients who may need support with finding the right space for now.
Here, we explore five ways that brokers can boost their business by providing flexible workspace, attracting new clients as well as bolstering existing relationships.
1/ Aim for a new kind of customer
The days of businesses signing up to long-term, large office leases are probably numbered. As demand for greater flexibility over where and when we work rises, the need for permanent workspaces will wane. And while brokers have the opportunity to offer big corporate clients flexible workspace instead, they also have the chance to attract new clients.
SMEs, entrepreneurs, and freelancers are looking to reduce capital expenditure and, in some cases, expand operations in cost-effective ways. Flexible workspace can allow for the slow or rapid scaling up of small businesses in a way that traditional office contracts can’t.
According to the EMEA Occupier Survey from real estate advisor CBRE, the majority of SMEs are planning to adopt a hybrid model of working, with some firms expecting to double the amount of flexible workspace they use within the next two years.
2/ Help clients to meet urgent needs
The pandemic has pushed business leaders to focus on the flexibility and adaptability of their operations. Should an unexpected challenge arise, how quickly and effectively could they react? In a situation where more (or less) office space was urgently needed, how easily could this be organized?
According to CBRE, traditional long-term leases are likely to prevent occupiers from achieving “choice, mobility and autonomy” in their future workspace solutions. Should a business suddenly need to scale floorspace up or down, for example, a standard contract would be unable to accommodate this.
Flexible workspaces, on the other hand, can be tailored to customers’ needs in real-time, offering on-demand solutions such as coworking overflow space and meeting rooms. With agreement options that range from a month to a year, flexspace also offers a new type of control for businesses in an increasingly uncertain, fast-moving world of work.
3/ Support clients who want to adopt a hub-and-spoke model
The hub-and-spoke model is a way of hybrid working that’s already gaining traction with big businesses such as Standard Chartered Bank and NTT. It means that companies keep their headquarters (the ‘hub’), but operate multiple regional offices or coworking spaces (the ‘spokes’). These allow employees to find a balance between home working, working from the corporate HQ and basing themselves at a workspace near where they live.
The hub-and-spoke approach is expected to become commonplace, and – via trusted brokers – flexible providers such as IWG are helping businesses to facilitate this change.
The benefits of the hub-and-spoke model can be significant for businesses, with the reduction in real estate spend promising more financial flexibility. An EY study shows that firms can save as much as $11,000 for each employee that works in a hybrid manner.
4/ Help clients who need configurable, private and coworking spaces
Flexible workspaces are more than just open-plan coworking offices. IWG offers fully furnished private office suites, allowing customers to build a dedicated space with private work areas, including meeting rooms, while still enjoying all the amenities of the shared flexible workspace.
At the other end of the spectrum, IWG locations offer virtual office and drop-in services so flexible solutions can truly be tailored in accordance with clients’ needs.
What’s important for many business leaders is that opting to use flexible workspace needn’t mean sacrificing a company’s corporate identity. As part of the bespoke solutions they design for clients, providers such as IWG often allow tenants to customize their workspace as needed.
5/ Act as a guide for clients confused in the new world of work
The Covid-19 pandemic has rapidly accelerated changes that might otherwise have taken years to reshape the world of work. It’s therefore no surprise that some business leaders are finding it difficult to navigate the new normal.
Brokers can be of vital help to clients who need support, helping them to understand why hybrid working is here to stay and also explaining its benefits.
As IWG Founder and CEO Mark Dixon puts it: “Fewer and fewer companies need office space that is just a sea of desks. Hybrid working is the future, and it’s coming to life around us right now.”