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With debate raging over the necessity and urgency of getting people back into the office, could a ‘drop-in’ model, bookable by the day – or even by the hour – provide a solution?

Around the world, we are witnessing a lag in the number of people who have made their way back to their offices, for various reasons.

For 70% of Londoners, the problem is the commute, while 65% say the risk of catching Covid-19 is their biggest concern, reveals a survey published by Theta Financial Reporting. However, for 57%, it’s a reluctance to go back to the old way of doing things – namely the traditional office environment and nine-to-five office hours.

Remote working is here to stay

And in that same reluctancy to return to the old way of doing things, the future of how office space is utilised is becoming visible. British asset management firm Schroders announced in August 2020 that it would become the first major City company to embrace remote working permanently. “The contract between society and business has changed forever,” says CEO Peter Harrison. “The office will become a convening place where you get teams together, but the work will be done in people’s homes”.

Aviva’s CEO, Amanda Blanc, said she expects a mere 10% of staff to return to the office in September, as the company looks to prioritise the “safety and wellbeing” of staff.

Distributed forces require flexibility
What’s clear is the need for leaders to recognise these changed circumstances and act in a way that reflects them. One business currently exploring its options is Barclays, with chief executive Jes Staley saying his company will “rethink” how it uses its offices. “I think people will rethink their real estate footprint,” he says. “We are going to think about our real estate mix given the lessons that we’ve learned.”

Staley has previously suggested that Barclays’ Canary Wharf office blocks could be “a thing of the past” and suggested staff could be more evenly distributed across call centres and its branch network, in more of a hybrid, hub-and-spoke model.

This hybrid model even has support from an unlikely source – Eric Yuan, the CEO of teleconferencing app Zoom, which experienced exponential growth as a result of the pandemic this year. “A hybrid model of work, whereby employees come into the office for two or three days and work the remainder from home, will be the new standard coming out of COVID-19,” said Yuan in an interview with Walker & Dunlop, a real estate finance firm recently.

It is becoming clear that a hybrid, short-stay model which allows workers to spend less time on unnecessary work-related woes and doesn’t sacrifice productivity, could provide a long-term solution for markets with low employee attendance. Convenience and flexibility will prove key in staying ahead of the curve.

The Regus offering
With access to IWG’s network of thousands of locations worldwide, including many of the ‘drop-in’ variety, Regus is leading the way in short-stay office space.

By booking via the Regus app, leaders and their teams can book meeting rooms, day offices, coworking spaces and business lounges by the hour or the day, without the need to sign up to a monthly contract.

And businesses can gain more than just a place to work, with the app also enabling users to book accompanying office services in order to enhance their business set-up. For example, Virtual Offices offer homeworkers and part-time office workers service options such as post management, a business phoneline or address, as well as the option to come to the physical office to use meeting rooms or shared lounges.

James Allan is Head of Product for Enterprise Plan at IWG – part of the company’s Enterprise programme. “[The short-stay model] means businesses can build a workspace strategy tailored entirely to their workforce needs,” he explains.

“For example, you might need a smaller number of fixed desks for employees who are based in the office five days a week, combined with access to ‘drop-in’ workspaces for more mobile teams who need somewhere to touchdown and work for a few hours when on the road,” he says. “Companies aren’t then left with lots of empty, unused desks in an office while paying for hefty fixed leases.”

“It takes flexspace to the extreme,” he adds. “This is about enabling individuals to work wherever they need to, whenever they want.”

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