Expanding flexible working is an essential aspect of improving business. Flexible working and hybrid working options are slowly becoming a prerequisite for candidates. The prospect of hybrid as added value to candidates or employees will be replaced as it becomes an expected norm across the corporate world. Implementation of flexible working arrangements are of more importance than the mere inclusion of a day working from home.

The current reality of flexible working

Real hybrid working involves a lot more than a day or two working from home. The age of smart offices, flexible workspace tools and Integrated Workspace Management Software has taken operational and office management to the next level. As a CEO, facility manager or HR Manager, you most likely jumped into remote working at the beginning of the pandemic. Corporations slowly drifted towards hybrid working as restrictions were lifted. The current reality of flexible working is often still dictated by the past that brought forced flexibility. Many companies are yet to adjust or optimise their post-pandemic processes. 

When looking at occupancy rates vs space utilisation, collaborative spaces and flexible / coworking spaces are leading in utilisation vs traditional office space. Through use of sensor technology across 259 office buildings, Relogix discovered that 37% of desks in flex/co-working spaces are being used 2.97 hours, which is the highest in relation to spaces supported in other industries. Comparatively, governmental, insurance or banking spaces when utilisation rates are combined for all 3 only reaches 29%.

What does this mean for business leaders? Firstly, office spaces are not even close to being used the entire day, as no listed space type has full usage or utilisation. Secondly, flexible, collaborative environments keep employees coming back to work more than any other space type. Lastly, businesses need to repurpose these spaces to gain maximum utilisation, especially sectors outside of coworking or flexible workspace providers.

Empty space on the rise?

The Big Issue reported on how rising commercial rents alongside increasing hybrid work has left London with 20 million square feet of empty office space – a 20 per cent rise since 2020. With a 4-day week growing in popularity, this is likely to rise. With the rise of flexible working, buildings have become more vacant throughout the week. The need for offices has drastically declined. This doesn’t mean the office is irrelevant or unnecessary.

Data shows employees still want an office environment. Trends are simply changing for stakeholders within the real estate industry. Tenant experience is of increasing importance to tackle retention rates. A building is no longer just a building, and how companies choose to approach office space utilisation is key to driving growth. Expanding flexible working has the power to utilise technology for efficiency, and this no longer has to be a costly and time-consuming process. Improving visitor experience, tenant experience and employee experience is a worthwhile endeavour for longevity. 

Challenges to hybrid working 

There are a lot of challenges, however we’ll focus on the most pressing for businesses that we have come across.

A main challenge is the transition and having the right tools. Operationally implementing new systems can be daunting and time-consuming without leadership and support. There is a lot of software on offer, and those tasked with improving the workspace can be overwhelmed.

Prioritising a tech driven data led transition to flexible working may not been on the list of priorities for business leaders grappling with a pandemic and now a cost of living crisis. Both present thier own challenges with space and resources. Businesses may opt for a wait and see approach. Likewise, the overhaul itself can seem complex given the abundance of information on workplace optimisation. To heads of department in the throes of ensuring business survival, the value of improving workspaces can be lost. 

Another challenge of expanding flexible work is the integration of technology. The switch to online solutions for work was slow in the beginning. Many employees are still app hopping into unproductivity. Individually, it’s estimated that 5 hours of work can be lost a week just from channel or platform hopping.

Centralising your online workspace is a route out of this issue, and complete compatibility with your current setup and a seamless integration is more and more possible. We know how important this is. Integrating Google, Outlook, HR software, parking preferences and desk booking is an aspect we continue to strengthen through our own technology. Workero have developed secure and clean integration to offset the administrative hurdles to achieve true hybrid as fast as possible. 

3 examples of companies successfully expanding hybrid

Employee Benefits highlights how Marks and Spencer have recently expanded flexible working options with plans from January 2023 for more than 3,000 Marks and Spencer retail managers to be granted additional flexible working options such as spreading their hours over five days, working a four-day compressed week or nine-day compressed fortnight. The idea itself to expand these important provisions was inspired by those returning from maternity leave who wanted more flexibility. Arguably, flexible working partially offsets the rising cost of childcare many parents are struggling with.

Rochelle Burdge of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia has a refreshing approach to hybrid working policy, summarised in just two words: “respectful flexibility”. This is still new in the current job market, and provides a trickle down trust from management. The HRDirector builds on this, with Lauren Adams illustrating how trust of employees is a major contributor for Gen Z or millenial workforce who value flexibility alongside kindness, diversity, equity and inclusion. Spotify took this to a new level, offering employees the ability to work from anywhere. As highlighted on their LifeAtSpotify career page “work isn’t somewhere you go but something you do”. Airbnb’s Live and Work Anywhere Program follows this same guiding principle. Choice, flexibility and trust are becoming strategic hiring practices.

GSK recently scooped the Excellence in Workforce Flexibility Award. It wasn’t the first success for GSK at the HR Excellence Awards. They also won Young HR Talent of the Year. But how did they do it? First, by making work 50% collaborative and 50% individual desk setting. Remote working is combined with employee centric added value. Yoga, Pilates, weightlifting and even a virtual doctor are now on offer to staff. Ergonomic assessments, understanding of staff caring needs and more were utilised to evolve the workplace into an award-winning structure of wellbeing.

Unintended positive consequences of GSK innovative strategy

‘Working From Home allowed staff to look after young children and family members. Work-life balance evolved into work life integration. Ergonomics, employee health and wellbeing concepts were emphasised and saw greater awareness among employees. Technology advancement adoption supported remote working and easier cooperation among people from different countries.’ – Anne Lau, Real Estate & Facilities Manager at GSK.

Why businesses need to embrace even more flexible working?

Talk of an end to flexible working appears time and time again. This leads some businesses to ditch hybrid working arrangements prematurely. Nowhere was this more pronounced than at the New York City Council, who recently backtracked on their plans to fully end hybrid work. From our experience, corporations that drag their heels implementing flexible working end up behind competitors in the war for talent. Efficiency, productivity and motivation will be the only loser in the fight to retain a pre-pandemic status quo of 9-5 in-office commitment. 

Hybrid work is here to stay. This argument has been backed up by both academics and business leaders. Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom highlighted several advantages of the hybrid work model, including lower attrition rates. A working paper from Bloom published, titled “How Hybrid Working From Home Works Out,” emphasised how quit rates among employees who also worked from home were reduced by a third. Despite this, companies are still struggling to optimise, integrate and implement hybrid or flexible working arrangements effectively. 

CNBC’s Susan Caminiti reiterates how flexibility and choice is assisting corporations to get work done alongside diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. CNBC Workforce Executive Council member DJ Casto, CHRO of financial services firm Synchrony, said “flexibility and choice are the new currency” in work. Flexible working is sought after as a prerequisite, not as added value. So if you are struggling to hire, you may want to reassess flexible working arrangements. The faster these are agreed upon within a company structure, the quicker business leaders can get to work optimising their workspaces for efficiency. 

The benefits of expanding flexible work

Benefits of Expanding flexible Working - Workero

Improve collaboration with colleagues 

A disadvantage of working from home was the inability to collaborate with colleagues. To truly unleash your team’s potential, true hybrid working involves a perfect balance between the office and home. Maintaining the usefulness of the office itself should still be a strategy HR uses to improve their team and appeal to candidates. That’s where our Integrated Workspace Management Software comes in. Inperson contact through desk booking can still be achieved safely and structurally to ensure more collaboration and inspiration. 

Open space networks are on the rise, so why not encourage collaboration by offering your empty space to external talent? 

Optimise oversight with trust and transparency

Bossware is on the rise. If your aim is to build a thriving and energetic company culture, this approach can be massively disadvantageous. Our bet is that performance based flexibility for workers will outperform invasive tracking, for obvious reasons. A trusting relationship between employees and management always leads to increasing productivity. Forbes highlights how “lack of direction and micromanagement” contribute significantly in the wrong direction. Bossware may be useful for hiring international remote workers, but the loopholes associated with this software are also of concern. Performance based KPIs are the way to achieve the real results worthy of your team’s hard work, not keystrokes and mouse tracking. Embracing hybrid work by allowing your team to book their work space independently has serious value. Don’t trust us? Give your employees the freedom to work using our system and see the results. 

Improve team efficiency through structured responsibility

Remote working split established departments within companies. As teams fragmented to the mercy of video conferencing,  Smart office developments combined with Integrated Workspace Management software provided a multitude of solutions. A whole two years before the pandemic, Adobe were already stating how companies needed to become flexible or die. Within the article, they highlight how flex time boosts productivity by as much as 80%. Our advice? Use flexible workspace tools that integrate your current workflow into your employee’s structure. Desk booking allows for departments to retain their bubble and thus amend departmental splits. Working together in person structurally should be the reality of in person meetings. Give your employees the responsibility to coordinate with each other and measure those results. 

Increase retention of employees

As previously mentioned, quit rates for employees who also worked from home were reduced by a third. Having flexible options available for employees not only shows trust, but provides a better work environment. One based on performance and responsibility, as opposed to micromanagement and intrusion. Less work may be completed from home given associated distractions. Some focus better from home, while some prefer the in-office structure. Accept the diversity of your employees needs. In the modern market, we are currently juggling a complex system of needs where understanding and freedom of choice prevails. Employee retention is improved by increased employee wellbeing. For tenant experience or employee satisfaction, focus on using the office as a tool to incentivise, inspire and improve motivation.

Save time app hopping and commuting

Technology has sped up the rate at which we can work but time is lost platform, app or channel hooping. As part of expanding flexible working, centralising these platforms to avoid wasted time becomes essential. When choosing a Workspace Management Software, employees should be able to sync multiple software, apps and email platforms. Desk booking should be possible from one dashboard, allowing employees to book spaces with ease. As you expand flexible work in your business, you may want to offer new locations through the use of office hotelling or expanding flexible office networks. This save employees time through decreasing commuting time. Moreover, employees have the added benefit of independently choosing the locations suited to them for maximum inspiration or productivity.

Improve visitor experience 

How many times have you spent 10+ minutes navigating halls and reception desks to eventually find your meeting. Investing in technological solutions for flexibility doesn’t stop at employee wellbeing. Visitor experience, especially for those with international clients, can be integral to closing deals. Standalone visitor management software, unmanned or not, can upgrade how visitors are handled. Essential alerts, easy check in and check out alongside late arrival notifications elevate the experience and provide important insights. Expand flexible work to include your visitors, external staff or guests to succeed on all fronts.

Competitive advantage through technology

As previously mentioned, various companies are utilising expansions in flex work to drive employability. HR departments are becoming more competitive on these terms than ever before. However, technology can be a forgotten aspect of understanding overall space.

Utilise Heat Map Technology to identify cold spots within the office which may be ripe for monetisation or collaborative spaces. Within corporations, it is essential to use a data led response to achieve workplace and space optimisation. Understanding the true extent of how technology can drive improvements is vast. Automated desk booking, control of office space access and parking management can vastly solve time-consuming administrative tasks.

Office Heat Map Technology

Lost finding what workplace software you can implement? Maybe you are seeking one to one support for workplace management? Feel free to request a demo with one of our specialists, who will happily guide you through the process. 

Tackle ESG & sustainability at the same time 

Building and Office insights Dashboard

An audit of structures and efficiency can be present an opportunity to reassess current sustainability strategy. Employees who cut down their commute will pollute less. Utilising heatmaps within your office space allows targetted heating, ventilation and cleaning, saving costly resources. Using office sensors to measure Co2 levels is just one progression we have not only witnessed, but spearheaded with our valued clients to create cleaner corporate office space.

In addition to resource monitoring, ESG reporting is another aspect of increasing importance to building owners, facility managers and CEOs seeking to advance their SDGs, zero carbon or green strategy. At Workero we integrate our WMS system with Building Management System in order to have a near future predictability of occupancy so that temperature, heating and air ventilation can be better fine-tuned with AI reducing costs and allowing for targetted resource use. Competitive advantage and wider company relevance comes from a data led approach, alongside a cleaner and greener culture you can boast about! 

End empty office spaces through open innovation

Workero Office Marketplace

Unlocking the untapped potential of an empty office is possible through monetisation. This doesn’t just mean giving up space. Open space networks can provide added value to employees and the company through the introduction of new ideas and access to talent. Members of our own flexible office network have opened their space in this very pursuit.

Building an ecosystem can be surprisingly straightforward, and ‘office hotelling’ or ‘hot desking’ is a route to meaningful ecosystem growth. It retains companies ability to grow meaningful collaboration within their company’s walls and dashboards. Moreover, with a rules based system, you control every aspect from who can enter to when they can use your space or where they have access to. 

Final remarks

In conclusion, all businesses can still do a lot to leverage hybrid working to their advantage. If you are still using your pre-pandemic or pandemic flex structure, it’s time to reassess. Auditing your current setup will be the first step to achieving workplace progress. As noted, expansions to increasing flexibility doesn’t only benefit employee wellbeing. It transitions company culture into one that has the power to attract staff, encourage collaboration and ultimately leverage technology for competitive advantage.