The future of work arrived early because of the pandemic, said Lars Wittig, IWG Country Manager for Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea and VP for Sales ASEAN, South Korea.
Before COVID-19, so-called hybrid working where employees have the flexibility to work from anywhere was already becoming a global trend. The pandemic accelerated that trend, Wittig said during a press event in Cebu.
“This was forced upon as all – in industries, cities, countries worldwide – the biggest flexible workspace experiment,” said Witting, “So many companies and industries now had to test this concept of working from home, distributed workforce, and it has impressed upon most how it can drive productivity, how you don’t need people to be measured by a timesheet.”
“The hybrid setup is going to be the way. It just allows you flexibility. With very good digital access nowadays, who needs to be in one place all the time?” said Joy Veloso, AppleOne Properties Inc. (API) Chief Operating Officer.
IWG is the largest global provider of flexible workspaces. The leading brand under the company is Regus. API, on the other hand, holds the franchise for Regus in the Visayas and has committed to open 10 more branches in the region.
Wittig said the partnership with AppleOne is very important because of its diversity and commitment to reinvest in the local community. “You cannot be global with 3,500 locations and millions of customers and users unless you have very strong local partners like AppleOne. And especially now where the new norm will be gravitating to flexible workspaces,” said Wittig.
The flexible work environment is important to businesses operating amid a pandemic, said Veloso. She said many businesses “are trying to navigate how to go about certain things in this pandemic.”
“Flexible working spaces like Regus allows you to navigate through this situation right now because it allows you to either expand or contract and that’s the beauty of flexible working spaces for those who are yet unsure of where this situation is gonna take us,” she said.
Focus on workers
From talking about real estate, companies are now focusing on human resources, said Wittig.
“You can’t convince a millennial that they need to take a commute for hours every morning and every evening just so that they what? Can sit in front of a computer next to a telephone? They can do that anywhere,” he said.
“No doubt we will also like to also come back to the office but we also need to have other alternatives and this should not be dictated by a timesheet,” Wittig said.
Veloso said they closed the deal with IWG to be the exclusive franchisee in the Visayas in January 2020, before quarantine lockdowns. Two months after, she said they were asking themselves if they made the right decision, in light of the expansion commitment to 10 sites across the region.
“But the pandemic has proven that our decision was one of the best decisions we’ve made in terms of acquisitions,” Veloso said. “During the lockdowns, our Regus operations did not shut down. And that is I think primarily because a lot of our clients were serving global clients.”
Wittig said that what businesses do now “will define how we come out on the other side.” He stressed the need to reasses, re-engineer operation and those “that are embracing flexible working arrangements are clearly those that have reassessed and reengineered their business as well. So they are responding, they are adapting, they are agile.”
Remove geographic limitations
Co-working spaces are platforms of flexibility that remove such limitations as geographic location. Companies are no longer limited to finding workers within the geographic area of their operations.
“Let’s say that you are a human resource manager in Metro Manila. Suddenly you are not limited to looking for new talent in your own region or to convince somebody in Cebu to be uprooted to move to Metro Manila to work for you there,” Wittig added.
Regus centers are located at the Cebu Business Park and Cebu IT Park. Veloso said the third Regus location will be in Mahi in Lapu-Lapu City. A press statement said the two will also partner in the opening of other IWG brands like HQ and Spaces.
Max Limpag is a journalist, blogger, and developer based in Cebu. He started as a reporter covering City Hall in 1996. He has written on technology for various print and digital publications since 1999 and twice won the Philippine Blog Awards for technology and sports. He co-founded the new media start-up InnoPub Media.