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Flexible workspace could be the ‘new seventh star’ of sustainable building

Nov 03,2019 - Last updated at Nov 03,2019

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 is next on the agenda? 

The “seventh star” could be awarded to already sustainable buildings that offer flexible workspace, where 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 per cent of employees globally are working outside of their main office headquarters for at least 2.5 days a week. 

In Jordan, Minister of Labour Samir Murad disclosed in October 2018 the findings of a study on flexible working models in Jordan, which showed that most companies applying the system in the Kingdom are more productive than those sticking to traditional work schedules. 

The assessment, carried out by the Labour Ministry in cooperation with the Higher Population Council (HPC) and the USAID, found that 95 per cent of the organisations with over 50 workers that applied the system “showed positive effects as a result of its implementation”.

Hence, there is a growing pressure on employers to show their employees and their clients that they are being very serious about it too. When companies start enabling their employees to work remotely, they can cut down on commuting time and directly reduce 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 per cent. 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 the number of 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 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.

The writer is Regus regional vice president. She contributed this article to The Jordan Times

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