Amongst the overheads involved in running a business, the labor costs and rent take up the majority of expenses.
In land-scarce cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Singapore, or in the densely built-up concrete jungle of New York, rent remains one of the major costs of doing business.
Rents tend to either stagnate or increase and rarely, if ever, go down. This has resulted in the emergence of companies involved in providing serviced offices and other business support activities, such as Regus. For companies that don’t want a full-service office, co-working spaces, short for community workspaces, are a viable alternative.
Similarly, another way of reducing rental costs is the use of flexplace arrangements, covering practices such as teleworking and telecommuting. Such arrangements offer organisations various benefits, such as cutting the costs of maintaining a large office space.
Despite the ubiquitous presence of wireless connectivity, cloud computing, and online cloud storage solutions (e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox, SpiderOak, etc.) as well as the presence of co-working spaces, many business organisations are failing to optimize their work processes. In this article I’m going to outline how companies can implement flexplace arrangements.
Currently, the two main flexplace arrangements present in the market are satellite offices and co-working spaces. In Singapore’s case, this ranges from informal communities like hackerspace.sg to more established spaces like The Hub and Coworking Singapore, which normally cater to freelancers and startup ventures, but are also more than capable of accommodating the needs of larger organizations.
Flexplace Benefits & Downsides
There are many benefits to be derived from the practice of flexible working arrangements, including:
- reduced absenteeism
- higher productivity
- savings on office space
- attraction and retention of talented staff
Two instances in which the bottom-line of large companies were improved through adopting a flexplace arrangement were Nortel and IBM Canada. IBM Canada reported office cost savings of over US $35 million, improved productivity of up to 50%, as well as improved employee and customer satisfaction. Similarly, Nortel enjoyed a 24% increase in productivity, US $15 million in savings per annum, and greater job satisfaction amongst its employees.
In contrast, Yahoo under CEO Marissa Mayer, revoked much of the telecommuting arrangements that had previously defined it as a company. While not invalidating the flexplace arrangement, Mayer’s edict addressed the lack of innovation. According to her, for innovation to occur, an exchange of ideas and people networking and conversing is required – a downside to the flexplace arrangement. However this can be mitigated with the use of flextime,which still facilitates officer interaction at specific time blocked within the week.
As with most concepts, flexspace boils down to the execution, implementation and the action plan for the organisation. It is in how a change is managed by an organizations leadership that matters in how successful it is.
Agility and flexibility are attributes increasingly essential to businesspeople and entrepreneurs to adopt, for continued survival and growth in the increasingly competitive marketplace of the post-industrial age. In general, a cost-benefit analysis will reveal more benefits to flexible work arrangements than downsides. It comes down to how and in which areas that the arrangement is deployed, as it suits many office-based jobs, but not all.
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