Flexing into a Brighter Future

by Martin Boyd

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Talk of restrictions being lifted has inevitably led to predictions (if you are still willing to play that dangerous game) and descriptions of changed patterns and behaviours of the returning workforce.

‘Flexible’ is probably the most common description - leaves a lot of room for manoeuvre as to what exactly that means of course...and maybe that’s the point. From a staff perspective a recent Slack survey has over 72% of workers opting for a hybrid remote-office model. From a management pov...well, that depends. A cynic might suggest they are looking at their building management overheads and concluding that staff WFH with the availability of satellite offices and coworking spaces makes a lot of sense.

However, I’m prepared to be more generous. Perhaps we will see that companies valuing a holistic approach to the well-being of staff is one of the few silver linings emerging from the pain of 2020. Founder of Regus (and now CEO of IWG), Mark Dixon, believes that is what is available as he spoke about the benefits a hybrid model of working brings: “Team members gain better mental health and reduced costs through not having to travel into city centres, along with greater career opportunities closer to home. And it gives companies the financial flexibility to invest in their staff and in growing the business, instead of the buildings from which they operate.”Read

There is that word ‘flexibility’ again. There are a couple of other areas of flexibility which are worth considering - both for those managing offices and the caterers who are servicing them.

Dixon’s colleague Wayne Berger (CEO of Regus’ parent company IWG in the Americas) speaks about how flexible these workspaces can be, adapting themselves to suit current 'local trends', with the ability to pivot as the circumstances dictate. (If you need proof of this consider the remarkable fact that not one of the 1,300 IWG locations in the Americas closed during the pandemic.) One of the most encouraging things to note from the growth of Coworking Space companies is the positive impact they will have on the economies of towns and suburbs. And that is where the opportunities may well lie for the entrepreneurial caterer looking to be part of this new landscape as they enjoy being part of the ‘local trends’.

So, the term ‘flexible’ will, quite naturally, be the experience not just of the workforce but those servicing them. Tech solutions will give office managers the ability to offer the range of hospitality staff would have enjoyed in the ‘Head Office’; importantly, it also gives them the flexibility to take up responsibility for their staff in terms of healthy choices in the breakout spaces and meeting rooms.

In turn, the same tech solutions in order management will allow caterers to flex from being ‘external food vendors’ to being ‘local food partners’ with these offices. Here is an opportunity for engagement which they will want to make use of to start their ‘come back’.

Studies have shown that flexible working and the control and choice therein brings with it a wide range of positive health outcomes. Being able to add catering into this mix of control and choice is now in the hands of office managers for everyone’s benefit.

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