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Reshaping the Future of Work
New research by Regus and future-of-work specialists Unwired, reveals how placing agility at the heart of how, where and when we work, will enable us to improve our lives, business and the environment. (Mark Dixon, CEO of Regus), the leading global provider of innovative workplace solutions, believes now is the time for companies to embrace a ‘six pack’ of trends as we emerge from recession.

As the agile working revolution accelerates, ripping away the tethers that bind us to fixed workplaces, we’ve reached a crucial turning point in the history of work.

It’s now obvious that the existing model of working is simply unsustainable.

Offices are left empty half the time, wasting energy and resources and straining corporate capital. Meeting rooms are booked up as work becomes more collaborative and demand for them increases. Stressful hours are spent in unproductive commuting, and the new breed of mobile worker struggles to find venues to fit their on-the-go needs.

The agile working explosion, driven by ever-more sophisticated mobile technology and telephony, is radically reshaping the way we work. It’s making unworkable the working model we’ve used for 120 years – workers travelling to a fixed place of work to be tied to a desk by the telephone and PC.

Six factors are compelling organisations to reshape, so they’re lean, fit and more agile – vital attributes for business in the new world of work, especially as we pull out of recession.

These external forces – people, culture, technology, sustainability, transport and property – are already touching every part of business, from small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to multinational corporations.

Fresh research called AGILITY @ Work, co-written by Regus and future-of-work specialists Unwired, looks at the experiences of early adopters of new work-styles – including Nokia, RBS, the BBC, Citigroup and Accenture – and throws new light on their impact .
It concludes that it’s imperative for business to adjust to this 21st century phenomenon by developing the six-pack as part of a new work model where widespread activity-based working (ABW) is adopted, with a mix of space as the norm, founded on a polycentric approach to the city.

Developing a six-pack will result in a much lower cost base for work, achieved through innovation, mobility and adopting new work-styles.
Six-pack of trends propelling and enabling change

No company can afford to ignore the six trends if it’s to emerge from the recession fit for the future. The six aren’t just driving change; embracing them they will complete a revolution, not only radically overhauling company fitness to gain a range of benefits but also improving work-life balance for staff.

Take sustainability – it is driven by financial necessity and people and organisations wanting to ‘do the right thing’, while governments are enabling change through legislation. But changing work patterns and places of work will be necessary to make further inroads.

Two of the biggest contributors of carbon emissions are commercial buildings and commuting to them. So, arguably, the most sustainable office is the one you don’t have. Corporations will see the office as a last resort in future, but in the meantime they can cut emissions by reducing the amount of commercial real estate they lease and managing their property assets more intelligently. This includes using greener technology – such as cooling and lighting systems and the ‘cloud’ to hold data instead of physical data centres.

To cut down on commuting and the strain on staff and transport systems, companies must combine the traditional office with a new mix of space, including serviced offices and community hubs. Alongside this, to make staff more effective in the field in front of customers, they must introduce solutions such as ABW, on-demand workspace and distributed working – supported by new technology.
Using ‘third space’

A block to achieving this vision is the lack of alternative workspace available at present. Cafes and hotels are not conducive to working efficiently or effectively, and although serviced offices meet these criteria they need to be more creative environments (though not necessarily five-star).

New ‘third space’ sitting somewhere between the corporate office and home – will be needed to provide peripheral drop-in spaces in future. This fits in with people’s realisation that they don’t have to be in a fixed place to perform.

Existing examples include ‘private’ clubs such as The Hospital where media executives can work, meet and eat; formal workspace booked through membership like Regus’ Berkeley Square centre or public places like The British Library where a free wireless workzone was created for work and meetings.

Together with home-working, more third space will enable the multi-centric working so necessary to tackling immobility in the city, while also giving companies and staff more flexibility and reducing cost. Work need no longer be about a building – with boundaries blurring, there are better, more efficient places to work. They’ll go to a local drop-down for corporate services, for example, and connect to the company network from there.

It’s logical, given these developments, that companies’ property portfolios will also need toning, starting with real estate strategic reviews into the real cost of building occupancy and usage.

Research from Unwired shows that 55% of desks in an average office are empty at any one point in time, yet meeting room space is often unavailable.

Businesses can make a difference by reducing the quantity of their real estate, which links back to sustainability and new ways of working. A 30% reduction of floor space creates 30% fewer carbon emissions.

In central London, the yearly cost of a desk for one person is between $19,000 and $22,000, including rent, rates and service charges. Yet, when Nokia closed sites and gave each of its 2,500 staff a Regis Businessworld card to use at our network of workspaces its occupancy costs fell from $12,000 to £3,000 a year per person.
Inspiring people to embrace new work-styles

Radical change depends on developing a workplace strategy that inspires people to grasp the opportunities new work-styles give them – with care taken to engage four different generations of workers currently in work. The next ‘net’ generation (those still at school) will be the true digital natives – those most likely to embrace the virtual workplaces we’re creating for the future.

We envisage the need for changes in business culture – using change management to prepare people for new working concepts, including teaching managers to trust staff when they’re working remotely and not being watched.

The different work-styles and patterns that are already out there are driven by technology – smartphones, laptops, wireless connectivity – which means people no longer have to commute: they can work anywhere.

We see the pace of technological change accelerating, with videoconferencing just one example of a way to save travel costs and improve the environment. Identifying technology needed, providing the right tools for new work-styles, and aligning it to the real estate strategy will be key to achieving a corporate six-pack.

In time, people will see work as something we do and not a place we go to – with the workplace as a service not a half-empty redundant building. The beginning of the 21st century will, in future, be seen as turning point – where new concepts revolutionised 120 years of inflexibility. Following the six-pack is the only way forward.

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