The Flexible Working Bill and the enduring value of the office environment

New Business - 22nd September 2023
Simon Eastlake
4 min read
Published: 27 Feb 2024 12:15

The question now is, how will this latest development in the battle between remote and in-person working affect businesses and change how employers manage their operations.

In effect, the provisions of the Flexible Working Bill are simple; workers will be able to apply for flexible working provisions immediately upon starting a new role, and employers must fairly consider said requests. It is worth emphasising that the bill does not require employers to accept such requests, where they can prove that to do so would be damaging to the interests of the company; but employers are nonetheless concerned about the influence this new legislation may have on employee productivity and retention.

While it may seem paradoxical, businesses aiming to ensure the Flexible Working Bill benefits them should look no further than the office. A new way of working demands a new type of workspace, and the popularity of serviced, flexible offices is on the rise, with enquiries into flexible office space over 143% higher in 2022 than pre-pandemic. 2 Such offices can help companies to maintain a sense of community at a time of remote working, and at the same time fully embrace the benefits of flexibility.

Office relevance in a hybrid ecosystem

Flexible working is becoming widely accepted in professional organisations, with employees keen to defend their privileges and managers now more aware of the benefits it can bring to individuals. In fact, nearly 75% of managers accept that some element of remote work has a positive impact on the motivation levels of employees. 3 However, on the other hand, remote working can be seen as harmful to team cohesion, so employers tend to favour a moderate hybrid approach. Currently, only 20% of businesses are willing to accept workers attending the office less than two days a week. 4

Serviced, flexible offices are rising in popularity because they help companies achieve the ideal balance between home and in-person working, with figures revealing that more than two-thirds of London’s flexible offices had occupancy levels of 80% or higher by Spring this year. 5 For businesses looking to use the recent bill as a springboard for a new hybrid policy, a move to a serviced and flexible office environment can encourage collaboration and synergy without detracting from an employee’s desire to choose where they work.

The appeal of flexibility

Serviced offices have seen a rise in demand because they are designed with modern working habits in mind. Pay-as-you-go meeting rooms give businesses greater flexibility to continue in-person meetings, without the expense of paying for space when it’s not in use. Likewise, the flexibility around the size of office spaces means companies can avoid paying for desks that aren’t in regular use. Moreover, varying spaces and rooms in a serviced office can help to facilitate collaboration between those who work remotely and those in the office. While smaller booths allow individuals to take virtual meetings uninterrupted, meeting rooms with conferencing technology accommodate those who need to join an in-person meeting remotely.

Serviced, flexible offices earn the commute through unique onsite amenities that serve to improve employee attendance. In our buildings at Office Space in Town (OSiT), we provide rooftop social spaces, game rooms, and gyms – helping our tenants bring teams back in person with an appealing workplace environment. In the wake of the Flexible Working Bill, businesses that turn to serviced flexible offices, enjoy the benefits of flexible working while maintaining team collaboration.

Wellbeing opportunities in serviced offices:

The bespoke design of serviced offices addresses a major concern with remote working - its impact on mental health. With 40% of full-time remote employees saying they were lonely as a result of this lifestyle, and 30% feeling disconnected from senior management, we cannot afford to ignore the impact of remote working on people’s wellbeing. 6 Serviced offices encourage hybrid, flexible ways of working and can mitigate the mental strains of remote working by encouraging company unity. At OSiT, for example, we host regular social events for those who use our buildings – from quiz nights to parties, and we encourage businesses to host their events in our bookable social spaces.

Generally, flexible working policies can offer numerous benefits to employee well-being, with known positive impacts on motivation, as well as the ability to open professional doors for those unable to work permanently in an office. But we shouldn’t overlook the effects of this lifestyle or ignore the threat it poses to mental health if it’s not implemented in the right circumstances. A balanced and flexible working policy, when supported by an easy-to-use and accessible serviced office, can help businesses more effectively cater to employee wants and needs, while also promoting their wellbeing.

The Flexible Working Bill legalises attitudes and trends which are already present in our professional lives. What the bill does not do is diminish the relevance of the office environment; instead, it has transformed it. Traditional offices are declining, but serviced offices are on the rise, allowing businesses to address some of the most crucial challenges associated with remote working – its impact on productivity and employee mental health. Making the most of the Flexible Working Bill depends, paradoxically, on a much greater understanding of the value of the office itself.