The past 18 months have presented a fundamental shift in how we work, and IWG is leading the flexible workspace wave
Flexible workspaces aren’t a new invention, but their prominence has only been heightened by the evolving needs of workers the world over. This growing interest has been reflected in the franchising success of international workspace solution provider IWG, with the brand seeing a 350 per cent increase in new location commitments in the first half of 2021, when compared to the same period last year.
20 new franchise partners joined the franchisor during this period, which will equate to 110 new centers entering development internationally. The flexible workspace revolution has begun – and it shows absolutely no signs of slowing down.
“Over the last 18 months, there’s been a fundamental shift in the way we work. Periods of lockdown have meant that people and businesses have been forced to adapt to a remote setup, and ultimately, this has proven successful and attractive to both employers and employees. The result is a big shift to hybrid working, which empowers employees to split their time between the corporate HQ, home, and a flexspace close to home,” says Stephen Holloway, global franchise development director for IWG.
“This shift represents a significant opportunity for franchise investment with strong demand for new flexible workspaces in secondary, tertiary, and provincial areas. It’s also reflected in research we’ve conducted, which showed that more than half (56 per cent) of business leaders interested in franchising are either considering becoming a flexible office franchisee or will actively look into it in the next 18 months.
“In addition, we now have over 50 franchise partners now signed to our platform and their success and interest is breeding more and more interest from other franchise investors.”
Drivers behind the flexible workspace boom
There are numerous factors that can explain the rising interest in IWG as a franchise opportunity – not least its technological enhancements to ensure that each and every center it operates is as streamlined and efficient for its clients as possible.
But a key driver behind the sector as a whole is that workers simply don’t want to endure long commutes anymore. IWG research revealed that 77 per cent of employees said that a workplace closer to their homes was a must have for their next job move.
“Very soon, the concept of the long work commute will be completely alien,” says Mark Dixon, founder and CEO of IWG. “The idea that every morning office workers wake early, jump into polluting cars and overcrowded trains, and travel many miles to their place of work will seem incredible.
“In the near future, we believe that there will be a professional workspace available everywhere – from the largest city to the smallest village”
“In the near future, we believe that there will be a professional workspace available everywhere – from the largest city to the smallest village. This transformation will unlock unprecedented value for workers, businesses, and local economies, while providing an important contribution to improving the environment.”
This all comes together in the idea of the 15-Minute City; a concept developed by French academic Carlos Moreno that comprises a place where individuals can access work, shopping, entertainment, education, and healthcare – all within a 15-minute commute.
“The 15-Minute City is happening organically. There’s this huge desire from people across the world to live and work in the heart of their communities, and it’s the pandemic that has undoubtedly driven this shift,” explains Holloway. “People want a better work-life balance – they no longer want to waste time and money on long, daily commutes – and this is what the 15-Minute City caters to.”
Working toward a greener future
A major motivator for many businesses when it comes to the 15-Minute City idea is the cutting of carbon emissions. In Oregon, for example, a ‘20-minute neighborhood’ has been used as a planning concept since 2010. As a result, Portland now has the highest rate of commuting by bike of any major U.S. city.
“38 per cent of FTSE 250 businesses are downsizing their office spaces, with 42 per cent looking to either move to or invest in shared office space”
But how do you evolve beyond bringing all of your workers into the city, and instead allow them to work and collaborate from locations closer to home? For many businesses, the answer to this is the hub-and-spoke model; a system that IWG has been putting into effect for several years, in partnership with some of its largest clients. And its demand is proven: 38 per cent of FTSE 250 businesses are downsizing their office spaces, with 42 per cent looking to either move to or invest in shared office space.
“People want to work close to where they live,” says Dixon. “It’s going to stick. The most valuable real estate in the world may well be in Gerrards Cross [a Buckingham shire town just beyond the M25], not Central London.”
At a glance IWG
Number of franchised outlets: 3,500+
Locations of units: 120 countries, 1,100 cities and towns
Investment range: From £450,000
Minimum required capital: £225,000