Workers won’t return to the office full-time: Regus ready to cash in 

Workers won’t return to the office full-time… and we’re ready to cash in on the new normal, says Regus

Working remotely for a couple of days a week will become the new normal after the pandemic, according to office provider IWG.

There was a ‘decade of change in just 12 months’, the Regus-owner said, as lockdowns forced employees to abandon their usual workplace.

Big-name companies such as BP have said they will adopt a ‘hybrid’ working pattern that means staff will not be in the company’s main office every day.

Regus-owner IWG offers access to service, open-plan offices that firms can share with other groups, as well as meeting rooms that can be booked by the hour

And major banks such as HSBC and Lloyds have used the pandemic as an excuse to slash their office space. Not everyone is convinced, however, and Goldman Sachs boss David Solomon last month described working from home as ‘an aberration that we’re going to correct as soon as possible’.

Although some people will choose to work from home, the switch to flexible working will also drive up demand for sites provided by companies such as IWG. Some smaller firms could ditch their own offices entirely and just book rooms whenever staff need to meet in person.

Mark Dixon, IWG’s chief executive, said: ‘We anticipate a massive surge in growth when we eventually emerge from the unprecedented downturn that the Covid-19 pandemic has created.’

It has signed up half a million workers in the past month and there are another million in the pipeline. IWG offers access to serviced, open-plan offices that firms can share with other groups, as well as meeting rooms that can be booked by the hour.

People can sign up to years-long deals, or buy passes for a few days a month or for limitless access. On Monday IWG sealed its biggest ever deal with Japanese telecoms giant NTT.

The arrangement will give the company’s 300,000 employees access to IWG’s sites around the globe. It has also made an arrangement with Standard Chartered for 95,000 workers.

IWG said in a statement: ‘Increasingly the workplace is anywhere workers and businesses want it to be: at home, in a local office, or at a corporate HQ.’

IWG has around 3,300 offices globally – two-thirds of which are in suburbs. These could be a key support for people who want to commute less frequently and move further away from big cities.

IWG said it would see business pick up in the second half of this year following vaccine rollouts.

Its optimistic outlook came as it reported it swung to a loss of £620million in 2020, from a profit of £55million in 2019. Sales fell 6 per cent to £2.5billion and it took a £380million hit from pandemic-related costs.

It is also expecting to rack up a £322million bill for closing underperforming sites.

Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey this week suggested that two or three days per week in the office could be the ‘new normal’.

He said: ‘Many people expect working from home to remain more common after the pandemic is over. Half of the new remote workers say they would like to continue to work from home all or most of the time.’