Flexible Workspace As An HR Strategy

How flexible workspace can become part of a company’s HR strategy.
  • The world of HR has drastically changed. The war for talent is driving companies to adopt greater flexibility, which includes the use of flexible workspace.
  • Although companies realize the importance of flexible working, there’s still a significant divide in what workers are asking for and what companies are providing.
  • For flexible workspace to become part of a HR strategy, companies need to have clear KPIs that they can measure.

Last week during GCUC USA, James Rankin from Instant Offices stated that the most valuable type of content coworking members are looking for is Human Resources advice.

The world of HR has drastically changed. Mostly, in fact, due to the ongoing war for talent and the changing demands of the newer workforce generation. In fact, the war for talent has become one of the most important strategic challenges for companies across the world. Recruiting and retaining talented employees has led many companies to change tactics, update policies, and offer different sets of benefits.

One industry that has benefited from this shift in HR is the flexible workspace industry. Steve King, from Emergent Research, recently mentioned that the growth of the industry has been driven by three customer waves, the last of which is large organizations, also known as corporate coworking.  

For its part, International Workplace Group (IWG)’s 2019 Global Workplace Survey found that “83% of global respondents reported that the ability to work flexibly acts as a clincher in case of indecision between two similar job offers.”

Sharon Edmondson, VP of HR at IWG, argues that “what employees are looking for now, versus even five years ago, has shifted.” People not only value flexibility, but also the ability to choose their own work location, Edmondson said. “30% of people value being able to choose their work location over an increase in vacation time.”

And although companies realize the importance of flexible working, there’s still a significant divide in what workers are asking for and what companies are providing for.

“Companies often think that they need to drastically overhaul their policies to implement a flexible workspace strategy,” Edmondson commented. “But the truth is they don’t really need to change much to incorporate flexible working into their existing framework.”

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According to her, the primary focus should be on how to retain collaboration.

“Business leaders need to recognize their organization’s culture and what fosters connections and ideas between their employees. Once that is understood, they can implement policies and find a workspace that will ensure this collaboration remains intact. For example, bringing in technology that will help elevate communication or finding a location that has open areas for group meetings.”

Edmondson also believes that policy change needs to begin at the top of an organization, with the company’s leaders. “Micromanagement no longer works. Leaders need to focus on execution and results, and this involves understanding and recognizing where and how people work their best, and — more importantly — empowering them to make a choice.”

For flexible workspaces to work as an HR strategy, however, companies need to have clear KPIs that they can measure.  

First and foremost, Edmondson believes companies need to start by determining what the goal is for introducing a flexible working policy. “Set up meetings with the business and financial leaders to vet out expectations and figure out what are the most important outputs. For example, if elevating productivity is important, introducing a flexible workspace policy will minimize commute times and maximize time in the office. Or perhaps the goal is more networking to increase lead shares.”

Once the goals are clear and well-defined, companies have to figure out the best way to measure the results. This can be done through individual goals, department goals, and time needed to fulfill tasks/projects, among others.

There are also other challenges companies need to overcome before they implement a successful strategy. According to Edmondson, business leaders don’t necessarily understand what flexible workspaces are and how they can help further elevate a business. Furthermore, Edmondson believes it can be a particularly difficult move for change management, especially among companies where managers “feel like they need to see everyone to ensure they are doing work. This perceived loss of control can be difficult to overcome.”

“In order to stay competitive, organizations are going to need to evolve and change. They are going to need to get out of their comfort zone in order to remain competitive, and there are resources to help them do this.”

What can flexible workspace operators do?

First and foremost, operators need to be able to service what they sell.

“It’s not a one size fits all. You need to find a solution that helps an organization remain true to its core pillars. This is where workspace choice comes into play. Choice is critical. Where is this company trying to expand? Do they want coworking, team rooms, or private offices?”

Operators should also think about privacy and security and how that affects the overall work environment and vibe. “A corporate organization might not want glass walls,” Edmondson adds.

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