Five workplace trends for 2021, according to Regus

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From safer work environments to increased cybersecurity, here’s what we might expect to see over the coming 12 months

What might the workplace look like this year? According to Cisco’s Workforce of the Future survey, conducted with 10,000 respondents across 12 markets in Europe, the Middle East, and Russia, employees want to keep a hold of the many positives that have emerged from the seismic shake-up of Covid-19. So, how will the events of 2020 shape 2021?

1. Safer work environments

For many office workers pre-pandemic, ‘workplace safety’ was mainly focused on correctly positioning your computer monitor or safely carrying a cup of tea. Today, employers need to have robust policies and procedures in place to keep their employees safe from Covid-19, including cleaning procedures, temperature checks, health surveys and updated sick time policies.

During the pandemic, employees expected companies to keep their facilities clean, communicate regularly about their reopening status, and maintain safe working conditions – and in 2021 this is unlikely to change. According to Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner of Workplace Intelligence, today’s job seekers are prioritising “safety of the work environment” over “opportunities for professional growth” and even the “quality of potential coworkers”.

Regus is now well-equipped to protect everyone using its spaces. “One of the benefits of operating the world’s largest network of flexible workspaces is that we’re able to assess local trends, align ourselves quickly and deploy important process changes and strategies with remarkable speed,” says Wayne Berger, CEO of Regus’ parent company IWG in the Americas. “From the moment the pandemic hit in March 2020, I’m proud to say that every single one of our locations in the Americas region – over 1,300 locations in 600 cities in 25 countries – remained open.” Not only this, but IWG was one of the first companies to apply Covid-19 protocols in its centres.

2. The hybrid workplace

It’s no surprise that many companies are planning to adopt a hybrid approach to where their employees work from in 2021. In a recent Slack survey, over 72% of workers said a hybrid remote-office model would be their ideal work situation, while research by Stanford University economic professor Nicholas Bloom backs this up, showing that the optimal situation for productivity is remote working for two days a week.

And big businesses are already leading the way. Microsoft has created a ‘hybrid workplace’ environment, which allows most roles to remain remote part-time, while Sodexo has split its workforce into two teams, which alternate the days that they spend in the office.

The hybrid ‘hub-and-spoke’ model of working is emerging as the preferred way ahead for many businesses, with a significant boost to uptake during the pandemic, says the founder of Regus (and now CEO of IWG), Mark Dixon. “The hybrid model is delivering spectacular benefits for employees and employers alike,” declares Dixon. “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.”

3. A need for additional cybersecurity

With a large percentage of the workforce continuing to access IT systems from home or outside the office in 2021, there will be an even greater need to mitigate cyber risks.

According to Accenture, 68% of business leaders already think their cybersecurity risks are increasing. Ransomware attacks on companies pose a significant threat, while cyber thieves will continue to exploit weaknesses to steal customer data. These threats will require companies to invest time and resources into cybersecurity and create solutions that work across different working environments.

“The stakes are simply too high to ignore,” explains Sebastiaan Willen, Group Commercial Director, Technology Services for Regus’ parent company. “It’s in every company’s interest to reduce the risk of cybersecurity breaches as much as possible to protect themselves and their customers.”

One way to protect your business from cyberattacks is to consider using flexible workspace, which itself offers a safe and secure solution. “We work with lots of leading vendors in networking and security on a daily basis,” says Ran Haer, IWG Information Security Manager. “Our sole objective is to ensure that we are equipped with the right tools and equipment to ensure our customers work in secure environments. Plus, we’re always pushing our providers for new ideas on how to make our networks more secure.”

4. A globally dispersed workforce

The trend for a globally diverse workforce was already on the rise pre-pandemic, but it was turbocharged by the events of 2020. Now, more than half of the US’s 100 largest metropolitan areas are seeing increased interest in living in the suburbs. In terms of attitude, 83% of employees are in favour of relocating as part of remote working and 20% have already done so either temporarily or permanently.

“In Asia, the recent growth of regional and suburban flexspace isn’t a huge surprise,” says Lars Wittig, who manages Regus centres as Country Manager for the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and South Korea. “The demand for alternative and flexible workspace solutions used to be driven by the employees – something IWG called ‘the workspace revolution’. Today, we’re seeing a much increased demand from employers seeking to facilitate hybrid workforces with multiple office hubs for greater productivity and talent retention. Developers and landlords have also joined this strategic trend.”

In Europe, data from a recent survey by Workthere shows that demand for suburban flexible office space is now the top source of demand, as employers look to accommodate their workers closer to home. Of the flexible office providers surveyed, 28% said they were seeing highest demand from companies looking at suburban flexible office space, with Ireland (56%) and Germany (33%) leading the way.

“For several years, we have seen companies across the world begin to shift their operations to the suburbs and the towns where their employees actually live, helping to rebalance the economy by providing more opportunities for local communities and service businesses,” says Mark Dixon. “Today, we are seeing enquiries and demand for suburban locations across our brands, including Regus and Spaces, increase exponentially around the world.”

5. An increased focus on employee wellbeing

According to a study by Workplace Intelligence, and Oracle, workers described 2020 as “the most stressful year in history”, with another finding that three-quarters of workers have struggled at work due to anxiety caused by Covid-19.

In 2021, many organisations will be thinking about ways to approach workplace wellbeing – from offering tools and services, to encouraging ‘job crafting’ – giving individuals autonomy to make meaningful decisions about what and how they contribute to the organisation.

And evidence suggests that flexible working could help with the latter. Studies have found that flexible working arrangements that “increase worker control and choice” had a positive effect on a plethora of health outcomes – sleep quality, tiredness and alertness, blood pressure and mental health – as well as ‘secondary’ outcomes, including a sense of community and social support within a workplace.

In addition to amended hours, a change of environment – allowing employees to work away from the office – could also help. Research has shown that remote working can benefit mental health, improving not only wellbeing but also job satisfaction. Working from home, or from shared office space or co-working spaces, can also reduce burnout, stress and psychological distress.

Regus has been at the forefront of the way we work since opening its first location in 1989. Find out how its solutions could help you and your business today and in the future