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Those with vested interests in commercial real estate cannot have failed to notice how our notions of the workplace have transformed. The past two years have seen Covid-19 lockdowns force businesses across the world to adapt to a remote set-up almost overnight. However, necessity is the mother of invention, and there has also been significant opportunity for businesses to reassess outdated and impractical working habits. Being more flexible in their operational strategies can empower them to create a better way of working for themselves and their employees.
Hybrid work – which enables employees to split their time between the company headquarters, home and a local flexible workspace – is now at the top of the agenda for many companies. It’s what their employees want. In fact, IWG research found that 72% of workers would prefer a hybrid way of working, even if reverting to the former Monday-Friday routine meant earning more money.
Those with commercial property interests like landlords and franchise operators are primed to lead the change that can help revolutionise the way we work. IWG and Colliers have recently formed a partnership across select US markets, expanding an already long-standing and successful relationship between the two companies in Canada.
The partnership sees IWG working with five senior partners and their diverse team of real estate professionals who moved to Colliers from CBRE in 2021. With over 130 years’ combined tenure for the partners at CBRE, the team, headed up by Vice Chairman Steve Rigby, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table, with plans to expand the team further in 2022.
Rigby says, “Colliers promotes an entrepreneurial and nimble culture that gives our team the flexibility we need to tailor customised solutions for our clients. Their global brand … provides the ideal environment for our team to excel. It is strongly aligned with our needs, and our clients’ needs, for the new world of work.”
Here, we’ll look at what the Colliers’ experts have to say about the future of flexspace, and look at what it means for landlords and franchise partners…
The role of landlords and franchise operators
Landlords and franchise partners who are new to flexible workspaces may find the prospect of converting corporate clients to this new way of working somewhat daunting. Carla Meyer was formerly Director of Broker Partnerships at IWG in North America and is now a Senior Director, Flexible Workspace Advisor primarily supporting the IWG account at Colliers. Working with brokers, she is always keen to extol the flexibility and opportunity that hybrid represents to investors. So how does she feel about the opportunities presented to franchise operators, landlords and their clients in this changing landscape?
“As the consultants in the field of flexible working, our job is to fully educate the Colliers brokers on the benefits of proposing a flexible option to their clients. As such, it’s important for the brokers to understand how to present flexible workspace to their clients.”
“And, as importantly, to help them navigate the nuances of flexible workspace agreements vs traditional conventional leases so they get the full benefit of the flexible workspace experience.”
Those investing in flexspaces, however, do not need to go through a broker. They are free to deal directly with corporate clients, transforming the workplace as we know it one deal at a time. Whether your offering consists of a single floor, a building or a series of buildings, your offering can bring tremendous value to the working operations of your clients. It’s simply a case of understanding how hybridisation enables you to tailor your offering to their needs.
The benefits of hybrid working can be broken down into three key areas when discussing the transition with clients: people, planet and profit. In a nutshell, it’s better for employees who no longer have to spend time and money commuting every single day of the week, leading to a better work-life balance; it’s better for the planet due to the significant reduction in commuting and its associated carbon footprint; and it’s better for a company’s bottom line because they can downsize their real estate footprint.
Future-proofing business plans
If the past 24 months have taught us anything, it’s that change is the only real constant in business. The franchise model empowers franchise partners and commercial landlords to help their corporate clients adapt to change with agility and aplomb. Of course, your prospective clients may require more specificity when it comes to how your offering will facilitate this. So, what do the experts say?
Jamie Edwards is a Business Analyst for Colliers who has accrued more than 25 years of commercial real estate experience, including more than 10 years in the flexspace sector directly supporting IWG. She offers sound advice for any clients who may be uncertain about how this new world of work is evolving, and what brokers can do to reassure them.
“As real estate professionals, we are plugged into the changing landscape of the future of work and we use our combined knowledge and experience to guide our clients through the ever-changing workplace terrain,” she explains.
“Now, more than ever, to be successful in business you must be willing to adapt as the world of work continues to evolve. Clients need someone to help cut through the noise and provide relevant and actionable insights that support their business now and in the future. The flexibility that hybrid workspace offers makes it an important part of an overall future-proof business plan.”
Hybrid working eschews the excessive space and lengthy leases of conventional commercial real estate for flexible short-term contracts and bespoke offerings tailored to the client’s needs. Whether they need a full-scale workspace replete with break-out areas, meeting spaces and shared working areas, or simply to lease a meeting room twice a week, partners and landlords can tailor their offerings to their clients’ needs.
Hybrid is here to stay
Landlords and franchise partners want to know that their investments are stable with strong potential for stable growth. Offering a combination of efficiency, cost-efficacy, sustainability and flexibility, it’s clear to see why hybrid working is not going anywhere in future. A sentiment that is echoed by Will Burchfield, VP & Head of Flexible Workspace Consulting, Americas at Colliers. When assessing the future for the commercial real estate market.
Will firmly believes that “hybrid working is here to stay. If the past six months are any indication of where this sector is going, we are all in for one heck of a fun ride,” he says. This is backed up by IWG research, which shows just 13% of FTSE 250 firms expect a full-time return to the office.
“Larger deals, more creative deals, more complex deals are becoming commonplace in the flex industry. Businesses rely on their employees to drive meaningful change. And now, more than ever, meaningful change is also the incorporation of where and how they do their best work.”
And Burchfield warns that companies who don’t make the transition to hybrid will be handing an advantage to their competitors.
“Culture and company DNA can still be widely demonstrated through hybrid working. It just needs to be exhibited in a slightly more creative fashion. Happier employees equals more productive employees.”
“Leaders who have adopted this notion of hybrid work are most definitely in the majority. If leaders do not recognize this new shift in work, they will most likely lose talent to competitors who are.”
As companies embark on a new journey that revolutionises their operations, flexspace landlords and franchise operators are ideally placed to facilitate, guide and support. Although the change might be unnerving for some, IWG Founder and CEO Mark Dixon argues that it brings a wealth of opportunity. Ultimately, he says, “hybrid working is already delivering spectacular benefits for employees and employers alike. The future of work is already with us, and it’s only going to improve.”
At IWG, we have spent 30 years refining and optimising our business model. As the world’s largest provider of flexible working solutions, we’re passionate about helping landlords and franchisees join the workspace revolution. Find out how we can support you today.