Comment: The new seventh star
At the moment, the six-star building design is the gold standard in green construction. Could flexible workspaces be the next level? Katerina Manou, Regus regional vice president, finds out
From car-sharing to going paperless, there are many ways to run a greener, more sustainable business – including opting for flexible working space over a permanent office. Green Star is an internationally recognised rating system for the sustainable design, construction and operation of buildings. At the moment, the six-star building design is the gold standard in green construction but, as the flexible workspace industry continues to grow and explore more efficient ways of using space, could it become the next level of sustainability?
At Regus, we believe that flexible workspace could be the “seventh star” of sustainable buildings. After the basic functionality of a building has a green, carbon-neutral and wholly sustainable footprint, what’s next on the agenda?
The “seventh star” could be awarded to already sustainable buildings that offer flexible workspace – its residents are typically doing shorter commutes, therefore contributing to fewer carbon emissions, and enjoying the physical and mental health benefits associated with a better work-life balance.
Flexible working is one of the fastest-growing trends in the employment landscape. According to the 2019 Global Workspace Survey by IWG, research showed that 50% of employees globally are working outside of their main office headquarters for at least 2.5 days a week.
In February last year, there have been important legal developments introduced in the UAE designed to facilitate flexibility in the labour market: the part-time working resolution and the remote working resolution. The part-time work permit provides employers with a useful option for filling labour gaps, perhaps during anti-social hours without resorting to costly overtime or further full-time positions in excess of total requirements.
There is a growing pressure on employers to show their employees and their clients that they are very serious about it too. When companies start enabling their employees to work remotely, they can cut down commuting time and directly reduce the CO2 impact thus occupying a highly efficient building both from an energy and utilisation perspective.
When a building is at its very greenest, it uses sustainable building materials and has zero negative impact on the environment, so it makes sense to also consider how the space is used. It is not a surprise to note that globally, traditional office space is utilised at best at 55%. So if companies could improve this utilisation through using flexible workspace, it will reduce the amount of new commercial office stock that is needed to accommodate economic growth, which means less impact on the environment.
Smaller space per employee translates into a lower carbon footprint. Finding a balance of a space where employees can interact and private space where employees individually can focus is ideal. When employees are offered such a space through remote working, they show tremendous flexibility and work long hours, as they end up saving time telecommuting. Doing this also reduces cars on the road and restores lost productivity time. Several studies can vouch for the fact that the natural outcome of such flexibility is that remote workers actually log more hours at their primary job than do their on-site counterparts.
Not surprisingly, employees in companies who have used flexible models tend to be strong promoters of the company and are more satisfied with their jobs.
A flexible workspace benefits landowners as well. In the future, there will most likely be an increased focus on quality space, with tenants being able to reduce their traditional-lease footprint and supplement it with access to flexspace within the building. This will enable landlords them to scale up and down as their business requires, resulting in better utilisation and greater efficiencies.
As we become more aware of our environmental footprint and flexible workspace becomes the norm for companies, maybe flexible workspace is the next green revolution.
About the author
The author Katerina Manou is Regus’ regional vice president. Regus, is a multinational provider of serviced offices, coworking spaces, business lounges, virtual offices, meeting rooms, and video teleconference services, with over 3,000 business centres, spanning almost 900 cities across 120 countries.