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Rolling out workspace-as-needed worldwide

Interview with Phil Kemp, MD Commercial Management
and Incubation at Regus

One of the most important trends in modern workspace provision is the continued rise of "3rd place" working, or "business space as needed". The emphasis is on touching down to use space when you need to, more than renting space for a set period of time.

Regus, the world's largest provider of flexible office space, has embraced this trend with enthusiasm, and has been rolling out Regus Express business lounges across the world.

And while other providers have tended to set up their own dedicated workhubs or coworking premises, Regus' Express model involves working with providers of other spaces with high footfall for travelling business people. So Regus has entered a series of partnerships with airports, railways stations, retail and roadside locations.

Regus Express

February 2015

Amersfoort Rail Station Regus Third Place Business Lounge

Regus business lounge at Amersfoort Railway Station, near Amsterdam


We spoke with Phil Kemp, MD Commercial Management and Incubation at Regus, about why Regus is investing in this model of flexible office space, how it is developing so far, and what is coming along in the future.

Flexibility: What has been Regus' thinking in investing so strongly in the third place market?

Phil Kemp: We've spent the last two years building up the Express proposition. I joined the company specifically to do this, to build up a network of flexible places to work.

We see an increasing number of mobile workers. There were 1.3 billion of them in 2013, enabled by the mobile technology. People find themselves working wherever they are. But physical space hasnít caught up with the technology Ė people on the move donít have professional places to work. So we are targeting high footfall locations that business people use, and provide a professional workplace thatís geared towards convenience and productivity.

Flexibility: How is the Express offering different from other offerings in the market and from Regus' other products?

Phil Kemp: The idea is an evolution of the business lounge approach that has been incorporated into Regus centres in recent years, starting with our flagship business lounge in Berkeley Square [in Mayfair, London].

As well as developing them in Regus centres, we found that a number of venue partners were approaching us to build a facility for them, for example SNCF in France. The idea was to provide an amenity for their customers, to increase the time customers stay in their locations and to create a new revenue stream from mobile workers. As more of this demand came to the surface, we went out to talk to potential partners to provide facilities for mobile workers in airports, roadside locations, railway stations, hotels and retail spaces. A typical facility is set up so that you can drop in and work as an individual, or meet with colleagues in a suite of meeting rooms. The facility provides space to work, business-grade wifi, access to printing, power and refreshments.

Flexibility: Say people turn up at an airport and they are not a Regus member, how does that work?

Phil Kemp: We have a similar approach to the mobile industry Ė so you can pay as you go, buy a bundle of visits to use at different times or locations, or take out a subscription for gold membership for access throughout the year to any location.

Flexibility: Isn't there competition at airports, for example, from the providers of airline customer lounges?

Phil Kemp:  No. Each sector has its own specifics. So at Heathrow we have a lounge landside, not airside. The nearest option then is a hotel about 15 minutes away. Then we have pods airside. It's complementary to the existing lounge offering. Our offering is more about being able to work and be productive while going through the airport.

Flexibility: How is take-up?

Phil Kemp: Take up is very good and continues to build. We're alsoseeing a network effect. so as the number of sites increases, awareness spreads and usage grows in tandem. The more dots on the map we get, the more it will drive overall membership and the two will continue to feed each other.

Flexibility: So who are the people who are using the Express centres?

Phil Kemp: It's a real mix, from individuals running a consultancy, to small organisations to mid-size and corporates. In terms of functions - it seems to be quite cross-functional. For example, there are HR people using them for interviews, finance people and IT professionals using them when they are travelling, and so on.

Location also affects usage patterns. A centre such as Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire will be used by professionals who live close by and who use the centre as an alternative to commuting into London. Those situated on the M25 or other busy networks might be used by workers from further afield.

People tend to have an office location, somewhere, but use the lounges when they need to be more flexible. Additionally, people are choosing our centres as an alternative to working from home, recognising the benefits of a more professional environment with the option of meeting rooms, etc.

Some corporates are still nervous about flexibility. But we see that changing, particularly in light of legislation introduced last year which gives employees the legal right to request flexible working.

Flexibility: We know a couple of organisations where homeworking is being introduced as a kind of mitigation measure, where an office relocation is creating severe travelling challenges to some members of staff. Do you see working in the Express kind of hubs offering an alternative way forward? Or is there a problem here? Relocations involve reducing costs. Homeworking is very cost-effective for the employer, but working from a hub erodes some of the savings.

Phil Kemp: We have been talking to companies and to government about this. The economics are such that you save money whether someone works at home or works at a Regus centre.

Our centres provide a way to combine flexibility with a little more control about how work is done. Many of our partners are looking to downsize their existing offices.  Often, they will have an agenda around flexibility for their own staff, so we consult with them to devise an approach that works for their employees.  This can be driven from a cost-reduction perspective but there is also an attitude of driving more flexibility for the employee Ė maximising that work-life balance.

We can show that providing access to Regus has advantages over working from home Ė the technology, the conducive atmosphere. This is something that Iíve found personally - I always have one day working from a local centre to cut out the interruptions I would otherwise get at home.

Flexibility: It's still a young market. How do you see the market evolving for workspace-as-needed?

Phil Kemp: We see it continuing to develop. The notion of the fixed 9-5 environment is becoming outdated. For todayís generation flexible working will become the norm Ė indeed, legislation is already supporting such a mindset. 

Our vision of creating a global network of professional workspaces is reinforced by the emergence of local competitors. There is a continuing momentum towards mobile working and there will be continued competition, but we will always look to innovate and lead.

Flexibility: As a society, are we getting the changing nature of work, or is public policy lagging behind?

Phil Kemp: Well, in the UK, legislation is now in place to encourage employees to have the conversation with their bosses around work flexibility and productivity. 
But we also see change being driven from a commercial perspective rather than a local, regional or national government level.

I know from my conversations with organisations that the whole use of the high street is changing rapidly. Itís clear that some high street premises have excess space and these would be ideal situations for workhubs or business lounges. This then plays into the broader picture regarding the future of the high street and other hot topics.
Weíre helping to facilitate change - not necessarily by being part of the planning debate but by talking to organisations that are already in situ and advising them on the practical details of using space in a way that can benefit all sides.

This requirement for flexibility and for professional working environments in retail parks or near motorways or airports is a global phenomenon. We're having these conversations in every continent. As we go through the next few years youíll see these networks growing. This is the early phase of flexible working, and we have a long term vision about where we wish to go.


Further information

Andy Lake interviews Phil Kemp, MD MD Commercial Management and Incubation at Regus, who heads up Regus' 'Third Place' rollout across the world.

Phil Kemp, Regus

You can find out more about Regus Express at www.regus.co.uk/express/

"Physical space hasnít caught up with the technology Ė people on the move donít have professional places to work"


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