Having been in the business of flexible work spaces for over 20 years, Regus has provided serviced offices to numerous Fortune 500 companies, and currently operates 2300 business centers across 120 countries worldwide.
Lars Wittig, Regus Philippines Country Manager, spoke to Flyspaces about the recent upsurge in flexible workspaces, paying particular attention to the current trends and unique situation in the Philippines. In the continued evolution of the work landscape, Wittig highlights the critical arrival of the millennial generation into the labor force.
With their entrepreneurial mindset, technological savvy, and mobile habits, millennials have urged a shift in traditional perspectives and business practices. Offices have adapted by focusing on mobility and flexibility. Open plan offices encourage heightened interaction, while co-working spaces and shared offices promote a collaborative atmosphere. The emergence of the on-demand economy has also ushered in more interest in short-term workspaces while also presenting SMEs and bootstrappers with more viable options.
The Youth Empowered
“The average age of Filipinos is 23.5,” begins Lars Wittig. “It is remarkably much, much younger than Indonesia and Northern Asia. We have many more millennials here than anywhere else. Let’s look forward ten years from now. Unfortunately, I will also be ten years older—but so will all the millennials. That means they will enter the level of decision-makers."
He believes office leases will become shorter and shorter as this young generation continues to gain significant influence, and demands and expectations will continue to conform to flexible millennial lifestyles. As employees continue to modify their approach to work and career, employers will inevitably follow, and so will commercial real estate developers, asserts Wittig.
“It is not the employers; it is the employees that are creating the demand and pioneering the flexible working trend. It is going back to the millennials.” Lack of flexibility is reportedly the number one reason Filipinos resign from their jobs. “To attract and retain the right talent, employers are keeping up with the employees and their expectations.”
Addressing Needs and Managing Expectations
Nowadays, the proliferation of mobile devices is another major factor affecting businesses and work life. It’s like having the contents of your briefcase right in your pocket. The ability to send instant e-mails, store files and data in the cloud, and access them from anywhere, according to Wittig, essentially makes everyone a flexible worker.
Another important trend affecting the industry is the inclination of businesspeople—from CFOs to HR professionals—to pay only for what they need. With the changes in how we work, sensible organizations are reconsidering their justification of capital investment. For the workspace industry, this has resulted in new opportunities and innovative business models.
But as the offices themselves change and adapt, another challenge is posed to employee management. “Basically, millennials just want to be measured by results. As an employer, you have to accept that maybe the employee is picking up their child from school at 2 or 3PM. Because, remember, employees today want to work whenever—including before 8AM and after 5PM. That means we cannot be too sensitive about regular business hours anymore. It is really a question about results. That’s all millennials are thinking about anyway, and rightfully so. It’s not the time sheet, not the attire, but the results,” says Wittig.
“Millennials are extremely productive and successful. They have already, by far statistically exceeded the previous generation. Because they want to deliver results and they want to be measured by results. They grew up with these devices and they don’t know a world without them. They want to work whenever and wherever, if it suits them. As Forbes magazine wrote recently, the notion of working from 8 to 5 at a traditional workplace is dead.”
He likens it to a grassroots way of thinking. Identifying these needs and providing sufficient solutions. For instance, Wittig is optimistic about real estate developers and architects with fresh ideas, and lauds those who aren’t merely trying to serve the large scale BPO industries, but the leaner local entrepreneurial set as well. More startups and small enterprises are entering the market. They have a positive impact in the economy and likewise deserve to be addressed.
“It is really a grassroots movement. Employers that try to keep up now will be better prepared for it. They need to learn to accommodate. In my opinion, that is one of the biggest HR challenges of the Philippines today.”
Regus Leads the Way
Considering these global trends, Regus has focused on its obligation to meet the demand of the market, and not just to comply with corporate strategy. One of their solutions has been to offer their tenants access to the various other Regus business centers in the country. They want to bring remote workers and on-the-go individuals into their specialty business lounges, with coffee and Wi-Fi, instead of having them go to cafes.
Additionally, they have begun to address small businesses—start-ups that can’t afford to sit down at a desk in a traditional office because they need to be active, seeking and chasing after customers out there and growing their business. Regus provides virtual offices with customized addresses. Wittig relates the success story of a Caloocan travel agent that eventually catered to larger corporations in Makati, after setting up his base in a small Regus office in the CBD.
“It is great to at least feel that we share a bit in these success stories because they are tremendous,” says Wittig.