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Auckland

Corporates reap benefits of shared office space

Offering co-working space has been shown to enhance employee happiness and productivity


 

 

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Regus1 small-min.jpgCo-working seems to be the buzzword of 2016. But it’s not just something for tech companies. 

The serviced office concept has come a long way, and today’s iterations are funky and modern, with all of the top class facilities you’d expect in a multinational company. It can work for sole traders who need to get out of the house; people who travel constantly and need an office in every port; and companies that need extra space but don’t want to move or commit to a new lease. 

Users have the option of co-working space, private offices, meeting rooms and business lounges. They pay for what they need, and only when they need it.

In the US, Verizon recently made the decision to let go of all of its traditional office leases. Their employees now choose from a network of co-working locations provided by Regus.

In the UK, Shell did a similar thing back in 2000. They had 35 offices and got rid of them, choosing to use Regus’ facilities instead. 

The move enabled both companies to cut their property costs by more than 50 percent, while making employees happier and more productive. The biggest factor influencing their happiness was the fact that they spent less time commuting and had more flexibility to choose where they wanted to work. 

Some of the time that people save on commuting will be spent with their families, while some will be spent working. In IBM’s Global Commuter Pain study​, 16 percent of respondents said that if their commuting time could be reduced, they would choose to work more. 

Auckland’s sprawling city limits mean many of us commute much further than we’d like to. 

“I think Auckland’s geography sometimes stands in the way of the right people getting the right jobs,” Regus’ country manager Pierre Ferrandon says. “Sometimes it is just not feasible to take a job on the other side of the city. But imagine being told you could have that job without having to travel across town every day.

“Rather than having one big CBD office, companies are now starting to see the benefits in having satellite locations in the north, south, east or west of the city. Not just to be close to their customers, but to be close to where their employees live too. One way that they can do this is by having their central HQ and then using shared office facilities in the city’s fringes. That way they only pay for the extra space as and when they need it – there are no fixed costs or long-term commitments,” Ferrandon says.

In the 2015 New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study by the University of Auckland, the average time Aucklanders estimated they spent commuting was five hours a week. Fifty percent of those spent more than five hours a week, and 25 per cent said they spent more than eight hours a week commuting. 

Private transport still accounts for 75 percent of all journeys to work in Auckland. The numbers of people using public transport has risen, but the number of drivers on the road has not really changed. It’s the number of people travelling as a passenger in a private vehicle that has decreased, suggesting that some Aucklanders have ditched carpooling in favour of public transport. 

Ferrandon says life gets easier for everyone when employers let go of the idea that we all need to gather in an office between 8am and 5pm. 

“Of course there are benefits in gathering together to have face-to-face meetings and work on projects together. But that doesn’t mean that all of your employees need to be in the same place every day. Some will find they’re much more productive if they have a day or two working from home on tasks that require a lot of focus, and then collaborating with colleagues in an office on the other days of the week. 

“If an employer can be flexible about what time the employees travel to the office, it reduces traffic stress. It also allows the people who are naturally early birds to start early and others to start later and work later. 

“For people who need to drop off or collect their children each day, flexible start and finish times can be the difference between long-term loyalty to a company and a desperate need to find a new job.”​

Regus has facilities in Auckland and Wellington CBDs, with many more in the planning stages. 

“Our goal is to have a network of locations across New Zealand, in the main urban areas, so that wherever you live, there will be a Regus facility within 15 minutes of your home. 

“I believe that by offering people an office location that’s close to their home and has world-class facilities, employers will ultimately be able to attract better talent and have a happier workforce,” Ferrandon says. 

“There are huge environmental benefits too. If we change the way we think about work and stop making people drive back and forth to the city each day, we reduce the amount of pollution we produce.”

In Singapore the offer of free public transport early in the morning has helped to reduce the crush on peak-hour trains. The idea has been posed in Toronto too, a city known for its traffic problems. 

“For these schemes to really be successful, it relies on employers to make flexible working hours common practice,” Ferrandon says.  ​

Tech hubs like GridAKL ​in Auckland are prime examples of the benefits of a flexible co-working environment. Tenants tend to be start-up tech companies, all of whom are working towards similar goals and can learn from each other. Chance conversations that start in the shared kitchen lead to problems solved and new collaborations. 

Commercial property company JLL has just released a whitepaper on tech hubs. It points out that real estate companies need to be innovative in their thinking, in order to adapt to the way the companies of the future want to work. 

“The traditional set-and-forget lease arrangements do not apply,” JLL Associate Director – Office Leasing James Thorburn​ says. “Flexible solutions, shared space and serviced offices are all part of the puzzle. Commercial property companies can learn a lot from the way tech hubs operate. This is the way the younger generations want to work,” he says.