Thinking outside the box - working world moves beyond the office

The largest-ever poll on flexible working attitudes has revealed that the majority now work remotely every week.

More than two-thirds of global employees work remotely every week, and over 50 percent do so for at least half of the week, heralding a major reassessment of corporate real estate, according to a comprehensive new global study. IWG has released a study based on the insights of over 18,000 business people across 96 companies. It found that every week 70 percent of employees are working at least one day a week somewhere other than the office. More than half (53 percent) work remotely for half of the week or more, while more than 11 percent work outside of their company’s main office location five times a week.

The emergence of this mobile workforce has been driven by technological change, globalisation and changes in employee expectations, according to IWG, the parent group of leading workspace companies including Regus and Spaces. 

Mark Dixon, founder and CEO of IWG, says that people from Seattle to Singapore, London to Lagos, no longer need to spend so much time in a particular office. He said:

“We are entering the era of the mobile workforce and it is hugely exciting. Not just for individual employees, but for businesses too. This is a huge shift in the workspace landscape globally, and businesses are now looking closely at what this means for their corporate real estate portfolios.” 

The study also found that businesses recognised that offering flexible working strategies to their employees provided them with significant benefits:

  • Business growth (89 percent - up from 67 percent in 2016) 
  • Competitiveness (87 percent up from only 59 percent in 2014) 
  • Productivity (82 percent up from 75 percent in 2013) 
  • Attracting and retaining top talent (80 percent - up from 64percent in 2016) 
  • Profit maximisation (83 percent)

For generations, the world has understood office-based work to involve a fixed location and a 9-5 schedule. But an unprecedented number of businesses are now adopting a very different working model, which produces benefits for them and their workers. 

The IWG survey found that flexible working not only reduces commuting time, but enhances productivity, staff retention, job satisfaction and even creativity. This is in addition to the financial and strategic advantages that it brings for businesses. 

Creating a happier, more productive workforce 
The move to flexible workspaces reflects the changing demands and expectations of the workforce. 80 percent of those surveyed agree that flexible working helps them retain top talent, while 64 percent are now offering this to help them recruit. Over half (58 ) agreed that offering flexible working improves job satisfaction, demonstrating the need for businesses to provide working environments suited to today’s employees to maintain a first-class workforce. The benefits businesses are experiencing are clear: a resounding 91 percent said that flexible workspaces enable employees to be more productive while on the move. 

Ian Hallett, IWG Group MD and Global Head of Brands and Ventures, said:

“New technologies mean many of us can now work anytime, anywhere. The challenge for businesses is how to optimise this new landscape. Companies are realising the benefits of flexible working and its ability to increase productivity, job satisfaction and business performance.” 

Everyone is demanding ‘on-demand’
The survey showed also that flexible working and the use of shared workspaces are no longer the preserve of start-ups. The world’s most successful businesses – including varied companies such as Etihad Airways, Diesel, GSK, Mastercard, Microsoft, Oracle and Uber – are already adopting a flexible workspace approach. 

Dixon added that changes in technology and digitalisation have led to a growing use of ondemand services generally in business, with organisations of all sizes wanting to increasingly outsource non-core activities. “Flexible working, supported by a professional on-demand workspace network, is now being discussed by senior leaders across functions in companies including risk management, business development, human resources, marketing and strategy. One day soon, flexible working could simply be known as ‘working’. We are reaching the tipping point,” he said.