Posted: Thu 13th May 2021
The future of work is hybrid, and it's already with us. But it hasn't, says IWG CEO Mark Dixon, been entirely driven by the pandemic.
"It would be easy to assume that the shift we're seeing in the way people work, away from a shared physical environment to wherever is most convenient and productive, has been driven entirely by the Covid-19 pandemic," he explained in a recent interview with fDi Intelligence.
"But that assumption would be wrong. The pandemic has certainly had a dramatic and permanent effect, but it's merely accelerated a trend that's been underway for several years, as organisations progressively move to a 'hybrid' way of working: at home, a local office and occasionally at corporate HQ."
A hybrid way of working is the new normal
Dixon believes that home is becoming the primary place of work for those with desk-based jobs. "Herding people to the office is looking increasingly obsolete, expensive and inconvenient," he said. "Why should workers go to the effort and expense of dragging themselves into work to spend the day working on a device that they have brought with them, and will return home with at the end of the day?"
Tech and virtual meetings are obviously driving this trend, but what happens when workers need a change of scenery? Or when they need some human interaction? The answer, Dixon believes, is travelling to a local office or business centre.
The shift to the suburbs
"For several years, we have seen companies across the world begin to shift their operations to the suburbs and the towns where their employees actually live, helping to rebalance the economy by providing more opportunities for local communities and service businesses," Dixon explained.
"As a result, during the past two years in the UK alone, IWG has opened almost all its new centres in non-city centre environments. Today, we are seeing enquiries and demand for suburban locations across our brands, including Regus and Spaces, increase exponentially around the world."
What does this mean for the head office?
Well, the death knell isn't sounding just yet. It will remain important, Dixon believes, as a centre of learning, cohesion and corporate identity. "It provides somewhere for people to congregate when needed, giving them a focus for the emotional, almost 'tribal', link between an employer and its workforce," he explained. "This can be a priceless cultural asset for a business, enabling people to imbibe the shared company spirit that sets them apart from other organisations."
What are the benefits of hybrid working for small businesses and their staff?
"The hybrid model is delivering spectacular benefits for employees and employers alike," Dixon said. For businesses, they're primarily twofold:
They can invest their money on growing their business rather than office space
They can recruit better staff by recruiting in areas where people actually live
The benefits for workers are:
Improved mental health
Not spending as much money on travelling into city centres
There are environmental benefits, too
"Companies of all sizes see addressing the need for their people to commute to work as the single greatest contribution they can make to reducing their carbon footprint," Dixon added. "They understand that by bringing work into the home, and into the heart of communities, they will immediately and significantly reduce the weight of traffic on roads and in cities across the world."
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