The more Therese Meyer, commercial director at Regus Africa & Middle East, talks to customers, the stronger her belief that workers are witnessing the death of the office. Or at least, the death of the traditional office.
In a recent survey for Regus, nearly 60% of executives predicted that future work styles would reduce the need for office space. Six out of 10 participants also say they can already work effectively outside the workspace, thanks to mobile and remote connectivity technology.
If people no longer need to work at a fixed desk in a fixed office, they no longer need to commute through urban traffic to a central business district. With the right technology and connectivity, they can work wherever it suits them. The 63.5% of people who told Regus they don’t want to travel for more than 20 minutes a day could see their wish granted.
In this changing work landscape, many SMEs have an advantage over their larger counterparts: they’re not yet lumbered with the baggage of the central business district presence. They don’t yet have the problem of extricating themselves from an expensive HQ, or the associated change management and HR challenges.
Instead, growing SMEs can evolve using the power of virtual technology. The development of cloud computing will make this way of working easier and more affordable than ever before.
One working option especially suited to SMEs is a “buy your own” workspace approach – in the same way they may offer employees a budget to buy the most appropriate computer. Staff could have an annual budget to choose the workspace and support that suits their job and objectives.
Reluctant commuters and expanding SMEs appreciate the benefits of virtual work, but more established businesses must learn to quantify its benefits. The traditional one-person-one-desk approach calculates real estate costs according to rents per square metre.
But this doesn’t quantify the benefits of virtual working. It doesn’t measure the benefits of a happier workforce, of lower churn, of a reduced carbon footprint, of access to a wider talent pool or of how employees who work apart but connect better can deliver projects more efficiently.
Many small companies instinctively know these benefits. The challenge is for larger companies to learn from their example, and for SMEs to avoid getting sucked into the old ways of working.
Instead of aspiring to impressive old-style corporate premises, they should nurture the innate advantage they already have: agility. Virtual working and flexible space are the way to make this happen.