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Why tech has made our lives – and our workspaces – more flexible than ever before
Look around you: from the office job to the shop floor, the world of work is changing fast. Aided by the Fourth Industrial Revolution – or the rise of big tech and the gig economy to you and me – no one can count on a job for life anymore, and workers are increasingly opting for freelance roles that allow them to take charge of how, when and where they perform their duties.
While this new world order brings uncertainty, with it also come a great many benefits. Gone are the days of the clogged commute. Thanks to cloud-computing and virtual-conferencing software, the need for team members on a work project to convene in the same building has become increasingly rare. At the same time, the millennial trend for a healthier work/life balance has prompted many companies to allow more remote working.
In the UK, there are also greater numbers of digital nomads than ever before. And while many a kitchen counter has served as a makeshift office up and down the country, anecdotal evidence suggests that, for psychological reasons, people still like to travel to a distinct place of work to draw the line between work and play – just not one that’s very far away.
This is one of the reasons why flexible office space providers like Regus, which provide fully furnished offices, meeting rooms and virtual offices all under one roof, are growing in popularity. As well as maintaining a strong presence in city centres, they can also often be found in business parks or out of town – closer to where people live. And because everything like cleaning and maintenance is taken care of, the only thing the nomad need do is concentrate on the task at hand: their job.
Startups are also keen on the flexible or coworking office. Being surrounded by likeminded entrepreneurs not only creates a buzz but also provides genuine networking opportunities (Regus runs breakfast sessions and lunch meetings at many of its venues around the world so that tenants can get to know each other better). And when the workspace can be scaled up or down as needs change, it’s easy to see why that appeals to startups. As their nature dictates, new businesses may experience rapid growth or perhaps need to quickly contract; with short-term contracts and adaptable working environments, the flexible office comes with options that fixed offices cannot match.
There’s another – perhaps surprising – group that’s also enjoying the advantages of cloud computing to rethink their office space: big companies. Where once a gleaming headquarters on the most famous street of a world city was the name of the game, today that’s all starting to look dated. Investing in a trophy building might no longer fit a more enlightened corporate policy that aims for greater efficiencies and a more sustainable approach. Plus, the mindset of today’s big businesses and their flexible working policies tend to resonate with the dynamic design-driven environments that coworking space tends to espouse (Google rents plenty of it on a multinational scale). And then there’s the company balance sheet: new IFRS16 accounting rules are far more favourable to flexible offices than fixed.
Thanks to the rapid gains in tech, we are able to work more flexibly than ever before. So it makes sense that, from the one-man show to the global brand, flexible workspace has become a core component of business strategy whatever your size.