Top Three Highlights From BCA Conference 2013

Regus UK's John Spencer speaks at BCA Conference
Regus UK's John Spencer speaks at BCA Conference

What was the one thing that really stood out during last week’s BCA Conference & Exhibition? Opportunity. And lots of it.

With last week’s Alliance Summit in Key Largo still fresh in the memory, the flexible workspace industry has a growing number of opportunities to meet, network, share knowledge and soak up the latest trends. And at the recent BCA Conference & Exhibition in London, it was evident that delegates were keen to do just that. The day highlighted the enormous value of flexible workspace and its vital place in today’s evolving business culture and work ethic.

Here are the top three highlights to come out of the day’s influential speaker line-up.

1) “The traditional office is dead” – Guy Laurence, CEO Vodafone UK
Guy’s story is fascinating. He helped to turn Vodafone UK’s fortunes around by redesigning the workplace and throwing out 75% of outdated “rules”. For instance, the workplace was flattened – they ripped out walls and opened up the space. They reduced meeting rooms by 30%. All non-private meetings now take place in the cafe area, the central hub of the building, to encourage chance encounters and greater collaboration (something that Yahoo is aiming for). CEOs and staff of all levels sit in the same space. And no-one ‘owns’ a desk. So enforced is this rule that any possessions left behind on a desk by 10pm at night – be it a notebook or a family photo – is incinerated that night.

The result? Employee empowerment, greater collaboration, higher motivation and increased productivity. Vodafone UK has seen its revenue take an upward turn as a result. It just goes to show how influential the workplace is and how instrumental it can be in business success. According to Guy, other corporates are recognising this too – and they’re moving towards more flexibility, dispersing staff “into the field”. This is good news for business centres, who can provide project space around the country to attract mobile workers. Guy encouraged operators to adjust their language and campaigns to attract corporates. “Big corporates need encouragement,” he said. “You need to put your best foot forward to catch this inflection point.”

2) “Great design creates a place where people want to work” – John Spencer, CEO Regus UK
Following hot on the heels of Guy Laurence was John Spencer, newly appointed CEO of Regus UK. If he’s a familiar name, it’s because he was formerly at the helm of MWB Business Exchange before it was acquired by Regus.

As the UK’s largest flexible workspace operator, he had the attention of the entire room. He delivered a thought-provoking presentation and one point that stood out in particular was the importance of workspace design. “I’m a big believer in design,” he said. “Great design creates a place where people want to work. Too many centres have plain white walls. Who lives in a house with boring white walls?” He explained that people spend more time in business centres than they do at home, and a dull building is not conducive to productivity – let alone attracting new clients.

This is a valid point and one that we have covered numerous times on OfficingToday. And it’s not just about paint colour. It’s about layout and choice of furniture. We’re seeing so many more workspaces – like that of Vodafone UK – turn to a more open collaborative workspace. It’s food for thought for any business centre that wants to attract more Blue Chip clients.

3) “The flexible workspace market is tiny” – Ben Munn, Joint Global Head of Workplace Strategies, CBRE
Ben brought his knowledge of the conventional office space sector to the Conference. He told the room that one of the biggest issues within the flexible workspace market is scale. There is over 1 billion sq ft of office space across central London, New York and Tokyo – yet just 1% of this space is serviced. Less than 0.1% is coworking space.

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Combined with the demand for smaller, more flexible workspace, it stands to reason that flexible workspace operators have a golden opportunity here. Corporates are recognising that by scaling down their workspace and introducing activity based working, they can cut costs, boost collaboration and improve output. Ben explained that companies are seeking more space on demand, and business centres are in a prime position to fulfil this need.

Smaller space requirements and more mobile teams means more opportunities for flexible workspace operators. Corporates may need a touchdown space, a project space close to a client, a meeting room or a hot desk for an hour. All of these trends point to the flexible workspace industry as key to filling those needs. Is your business centre ready? Are you online and ready to take bookings? Does your marketing align to corporates as well as traditional SME clients? These changes are happening – now’s the time to evaluate your business and make in-roads to ensure you catch these changes as they happen.

Thanks to the BCA for the image.

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