The increase in the flexible and remote working trends in the Philippines is a clear testament to the quiet revolution in the way we work today. Technology is undeniably a key driver in enabling professionals to work where and when they want and how they want it. This modern work style is one that fits the sectors that seem to be growing fast — the millennial freelancers and creative entrepreneurs who form part of the increasing number of startups in the country.
According to the first-ever startup industry-wide study, the 2017 Philippine Startup Survey, there would be over 300 startups in the Philippines, which is more than halfway through the 500 startups that the Philippine Roadmap for Digital Startups aims to achieve by 2020. The study also revealed that the startup ecosystem relies on more than 30 co-working spaces, which are often used by startup teams in lieu of a traditional office (1). This just proves that the revolutionary way we work now means that businesses, especially in the Philippines, specifically the start-up community, are studying how flexible working can help them to grow.
By the end of 2016, the number of flexible space operators had reached over 60. Based on the report of the research firm Colliers, this was a significant jump since the market leader Regus entered the local market in 1999. Back then, there was merely the 1,000-square-meter site of Regus’ first flexible working space at The Enterprise Center in the middle of the financial hub, Makati City. In 2016, the report estimated that the total stock of flexible working space accounted for 228,000 square meters, which is expected to grow by 10% annually because of the demand by the millennial-dominated labor force (2).
So, what makes flexible working space so appealing to the businesses of today? Flexible work spaces have apparently proven to be a real cost savior to small businesses. Companies, may it be MNCs looking to operate in new markets or startups that are beginning to create their business footprint, can save significant costs on leasing the real estate, sometimes as much as 50% or more. Clearly, reducing long leases, capital expenditure and overall costs provides a financial boost that helps reduce financial burden and risk.
In the 2018 Global Business Survey (GBS) conducted by IWG, which surveyed over 18,000 business leaders from around the world, 92% of the respondents from the Philippines stated that optimized costs are a key driver for their increased use of remote working locations. Aside from the reduced rental expenses, companies also find a significant decline in their operational costs as they save on technology infrastructure, furniture, amenities and remediation costs (3).
Serial entrepreneur Patrick Hull wrote for Forbes, “With the increase of digitally-based companies, co-working environments can be a great solution for startups that don’t have a big footprint and want to interact with other like-minded people.” He further added that the small companies prefer the services of the likes of Regus to lease individual offices because of the convenience offered. In opting for flexible working spaces, small companies take less time needed to find space, set up infrastructure like internet, phone lines and other amenities such as reception line, kitchens, and conference rooms that are required to get them started (4).
Other than bringing optimized expense sheets to companies, to startups in particular, flexible working spaces also deliver the ideal work environment that most employees demand these days. Due to the increasing travel time caused by traffic in Metro Manila, 88% of the country’s respondents in the IWG GBS said remote working locations helped reduce commuting time for employees, while around 82% stated that providing employees with access to remote working locations provided better work-life balance.
Also reported in the survey, a staggering 93% of respondents in the Philippines said that flexible work space enabled their employees to be more productive on the move, thus between 90% and 94% recognized that flexible working helped them grow their business, allowed their businesses to remain competitive and maximize profits.
It also helps a business to retain that talent — at all levels of the company. That is a key factor in ensuring that ambitious, global businesses keep one of their most important differentiators — their people. Locally, the survey said that 86% of businesses that allowed for flexible work spaces allowed them to recruit and retain top talent.
At this time and age, it is clear that the expectations and demands of employees are changing and indeed, that the demands of top talent are changing. Employees look for the chance to work on the move, explore new offices, and fit their work commitments around their life commitments. If you can deliver that as a young startup, then your appeal as an employer will rocket.
Your ability to marry your financial decisions to organizational and operational needs will certainly lead you to identifying a flexible workspace strategy that offers talent a package that they know will enable them to be their most productive, without compromising their work life balance. At the same time such a strategy offers startups, as thriving and exciting business owners, the peace of mind that there is a plan for the unforeseen events that can disrupt business continuity and long term success.