Digitalisation and new technologies are transforming the way we work. Increasingly, people are finding it harder to juggle their professional and personal commitments as an enormous number of hours are spent at the workplace.
Increasingly, they want the personal productivity benefits of living and working how and where they want so that they can successfully multitask and keep up with their professional and personal commitments on the go, and as efficiently as possible.
Flexible workspaces have emerged as the answer to this need, transforming the working experience for millions of people. For smart businesses, this is a revolution that will create competitive advantage, cut costs and help attract and retain talent.
An annual international survey undertaken by Regus’ parent group IWG, covering 18,000 professionals from 96 countries, revealed that 91 per cent of respondents said that flexible workspace enables enhanced levels of productivity amongst workforces.
Fuelling flexibility in the GCC
Flexible workspaces enable businesses to operate anywhere, without the need for set-up costs or capital investment. They can support the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and stimulate economic diversification by creating opportunities for emerging businesses that do not have the capital to invest in full-fledged offices.
In the Middle East, where governments are on a diversification drive as they attempt to move away from an oil-based economy, flexible workspaces fit in almost seamlessly with the National Agenda, as they help stimulate local entrepreneurship across multiple sectors.
Oman launched the Tanfeedh National Program to stimulate diversification across a number of sectors in the Sultanate. The program also aims to improve the business environment since a supportive ecosystem is recognised as a major factor of economic growth, which can attract investors, encourage the formation of small and medium enterprises and foster entrepreneurship.
Establishing a sustainable business environment means creating suitable opportunities to maximise the productivity of every single member of the workforce, by creating a healthy and safe working environment for all.
Flexible workspaces come with numerous advantages that make them a far more competitive option than conventional office spaces. Since they can be located anywhere, flexible workspaces offer the convenience of working from a preferred location. This could be especially beneficial for new mothers or pregnant women, who may find it difficult to commute to their workplace. Overall, this can boost productivity for the company as it could save many hours of drive time on the roads, as well as help improve staff retention.
It also appears to be the case that workers working flexibly take less time off for sickness and ill-health reasons. Researchers at the University of Stanford found that nine per cent of the productivity gain associated with remote working was explained by workers taking fewer breaks and less amounts of time off work for illness.
In surveys, workers who work flexibly also report themselves to be happier and more motivated than co-located workers. Greater levels of employee happiness and satisfaction is also likely to reduce churn rates among staff, resulting in maintained levels of production and lower costs from the need to recruit and train replacement staff.
There are also significant societal environmental benefits that can be potentially gained from the increasing trend towards flexible and remote working. For example, remote working can help to reduce overall fuel consumption, reduce carbon emissions and production of pollutants such as particulates.
A successful flexible working platform is a far more cost effective option for companies setting up, with research showing that it can reduce workplace overheads by almost half.
The best part about flexible office spaces is that they offer the added benefit of being able to scale up as and when required. So, for instance, a clothing-start up selling vintage pre-loved items of fashion items could very well start small and add more space and workstations as they grow their business.
Flexible workspace providers are therefore constantly looking to provide the latest office workspace solutions to meet the evolving needs of the market. The goal is to deliver the most efficient workspace that stimulates productivity. This can be achieved by offering customised solutions for inspiring and collaborative workspaces using furniture, layout and decorations tailored to suit specific needs.
Flexible workspace providers have harnessed technology including apps to ensure that the customer journey is a more seamless one. This ensures that customers always have easy access to the workspace network to help them to find and book space and manage their accounts.
Flexible workspaces are not restricted to businesses of a certain size or scale, since they create personal, financial and strategic value for all establishments. From some of the most exciting companies and well-known organisations on the planet, to individuals and the next generation of industry leaders, all can harness the power of flexible working to increase their productivity, efficiency, agility and market proximity.
Many of the world’s most innovative business success stories have a dedicated flexible workspace strategy. Of course, large corporations have a requirement for a large, dedicated HQ, but by complementing this with a flexible workspace partner, they can drive real benefits to their business.
A business can move people into a new market quickly, take them out again when required and put their people close to their suppliers without committing to long leases and expensive relocation costs. Employee wellbeing and personal satisfaction will increase, and in today’s battle for top talent that means a huge amount. Fewer hours spent commuting, greater independence and flexibility means happier workers.
In the long term, flexible workspaces present a very competitive solution for businesses in the Middle East – and not just start-ups that are almost forced to look for virtual workspaces – but small and large sized businesses as well. Organizations must remember that flexible workspaces could evolve to become hubs, which stimulate innovation across sectors and accelerate the journey to economic diversification.
Katerina Manou is the Vice President for Middle East, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Greece at Regus, part of the IWG Group. She has held several leadership roles across Europe and MENA at IWG over the past 14 years. She was awarded “Global and Regional CEO” award in 2012 and IWG’s Greece and Cyprus annual gold, silver, and bronze performance awards in 2017.