FLEXIBLE WORKING CAN IMPROVE STAFF HAPPINESS AND HELP THE ENVIRONMENT
We’re living through a workplace revolution that is changing virtually every aspect of how we work, commute and interact with one another
We’re living through a workplace revolution that is changing virtually every aspect of how we work, commute and interact with one another.
This was the message from Pierre Ferrandon, Regus’s country manager for New Zealand, in a speech to tech startup entrepreneurs and staff from the financial services industry at a conference in Auckland in 2019. Little did he know how correct this foreshadowing statement proved as we moved into 2020.
The Financial Service Council and Workplace Savings NZ Conference is fast earning the reputation as one of the flagship conferences of the financial services sector in the antipodean nation.
Last year’s event was entitled Towards Wellbeing and was centred around how the New Zealand government’s commitments to policies and a national budget – published earlier this year – that will put issues such as mental health at the forefront of its policy agenda.
The conference examined how that “wellbeing” ambition translates for the financial-services sector, not just with regards to financial wellbeing but also in terms of how companies can support staff and customers to balance their health.
When it comes to the mental health of staff, according to the UK Office for National Statistics a long commute can make employees “unhappy and anxious”.
So one way of improving those wellbeing levels centres around reducing the commute, says Ferrandon. “For the traditional office space, this disruption means employees are more likely to work closer to home, reducing transit costs and taking advantage of tech and workspace networks which let them work from a variety of other, non-centralised locations,” he says – something we’ve seen happening around the world due to homeworking and choosing to work from workspace closer to home.
Ensuring staff are happier isn’t just a smart and ethical thing to do, it’s also beneficial when it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent. More than 80% of workers surveyed last year says they’d turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working.
Staff want to work flexibly, they want to reduce their commute, and they’re also mindful of their impact on the environment, so reducing carbon footprints is also a hugely important benefit of trimming time from that commute – and it proved correct, as we’ve seen emission levels drop around the globe in 2020.
“Long daily commutes mean high carbon emissions, mean a dangerously altered climate,” he says. “Beyond the economic factors, flexible working can be one of the biggest tools in the global arsenal to re-establish climate stability.”
A Regus study of 16 major economies found that if the growth in flexible workspace observed before 2020 continued to increase at the same speed, people across those 16 countries would save more than 3.53 billion hours commuting every year by 2030. The amount of carbon dioxide saved would be equivalent to the amount of carbon sequestered by 5.5 billion trees over 10 years. “Extrapolated globally, the savings in time, money, productivity and emissions would be staggering,” Ferrandon says.
As well as being good for staff, having this degree of flexibility is good for the company too, as it removes the shackles of only being able to recruit talent in one specific country or urban metropolitan area.
“International entrepreneurs who may previously have thought about how to move the best people to one city can now find great people anywhere on the planet and offer them an optimally designed workspace wherever they want to live,” he adds. “Businesses can have a presence in any part of the global market and be ready for employees everywhere.” And due to the pandemic, the acceptance of digital tools as a way to support managers to lead a workforce that’s spread around the world has been fully established as well.
Another major development observed last year were the changes to the IFRS16 rules, which require companies to display the full term of office space leases on their balance sheets as a liability and which Ferrandon describes as a gamechanger. “This is driving demand for shorter-term leases which are more cost-effective, easier to negotiate, and don’t represent a long-term liability that can affect other areas of business operations,” he believes.
But he says it’s essential that companies make moves to tap into this workspace revolution now, rather than be left behind, saying that in the old model long-term leases take at least six months to set up. IWG, on the other hand, can access markets and offices in just 24 hours – even now.
“Ultimately, the key to flexible workspaces and co-working is to use the model to your advantage,” Ferrandon states. “Reduce overheads, cut down on risk, increase speed to market and know that you are setting yourself up to win talent and even play a role in saving the planet. For an entrepreneur, what could be better?