Who really works for you?

The world of work is changing. Thanks to technological development – be it super-fast Wi-Fi, video conferencing or IoT – it is now possible to clock in, log on and work from a range of locations, whether that be the local café, an airport lounge or from home.

With 54% of employees working from home at least once a month, and 34% from cafes, Tom Carroll, Head of EMEA Corporate Research, JLL explains that the traditional desk-based 9-5 is giving way to more flexible, remote forms of working.

Across the wider economy, technology is powering similar developments, namely in the rise of the ‘gig economy’. Already, 30% of the workforce operates in the gig economy on a flexible, contingent basis, and this number is only set to increase.

We’re all familiar with the likes of Deliveroo and Uber, but the gig economy doesn’t stop here: businesses large and small, from agile start-ups to established corporates, are getting on board, increasing their use of on-demand, contingent workers. Apps like Syft have sprung up, enabling business to easily find staff on a short-term basis, whilst research shows that by 2030, gig economy workers could form as much as 80% of the workforce.

Just as Deliveroo and Uber have transformed the hospitality and transport sectors, the gig economy is driving a similar transformation in real estate, with flexible office space growing at a rapid rate. In fact, JLL’s Disruption or Distraction report predicts that in the next five years, flexible office space will grow by to up 30% per year. Put simply, when it comes to the future of work, the watchword is flexibility: increasingly flexible workforce shifting between increasingly flexible office spaces.

Of course, these developments can benefit businesses. Studies have suggested that enabling employees to work flexibly can boost productivity: research from HSBC, for instance, has found that 9 out of 10 employees claim that remote working is the number one motivator to boost productivity at work.

What’s more, the rise of flex space can be of great benefit when it comes to accommodating future talent requirements, enabling real estate portfolios to contract and expand as a business does, and for companies to easily locate in areas rich with future talent. And, of course, on-demand working can be a fantastic tool for project-based businesses.

Naturally, there are challenges, too. It can be tricky to create a coherent sense of corporate culture out of flexible, remote or potentially transient workers. Ultimately, in a tech-enabled, gig economy world, employees could be forgiven for being left scratching their heads, struggling to identify – and identify with – colleagues they rarely see.

These challenges are by no means unsolvable and shouldn’t be reason to shy away from flexible working. Enabling employees to work flexibly can be a great way of promoting collaboration and demonstrating you trust them, empowering them with the knowledge that they are able to choose to use their time in a way they consider to be most effective.

What’s more, embracing flexibility embeds choice and collaboration into the very DNA of a company; it becomes part of a company’s identity, and not just a method of working.

Crucially, a shared physical space can play a key role in establishing a positive staff community and enable a collaborative culture in an increasing digital world. Where you choose to set up shop – or in the case of large businesses, locate offices – can go a long way when trying to attract and retain talent as well as encouraging employees to collaborate and innovate with their peers.

By making the workplace more accessible, and considering where employees want to be based, staff are more likely to choose to come into the office and view it as a central hub that they can operate from, as and when it creates value, whilst maintaining the benefits of flexible working.

This cuts to the heart of the issue: businesses should see their premises as collaboration hubs; fantastic spaces that employees actually enjoying spending time in.

If carefully attuned to the needs of the individual, and offering fantastic amenities – whether that be breakout spaces or food and drink – flexible-working employees will doubtless make an effort to travel back to headquarters regularly, rubbing shoulders and collaborating with fellow colleagues.

No matter how you look at it, the flexible working boom is here to stay. Without having the right initiatives and workspaces in place to support today’s remote workforce, businesses are understandably concerned about losing their sense of company culture and their personal touch with employees.

With the right workplace design, location and offerings in place, business leaders can look forward to riding the flex wave without alienating themselves from their staff and maintaining that all important collaborative working culture.