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IWG chief executive: “Hybrid working is here to stay”

E2E 100 strategic founding partner, IWG plc’s CEO Mark Dixon, looks at how technology fuelled the global shift to hybrid working, and the unmistakable benefits it has had for employees, the planet and company profits

Wednesday 19 April 2023 22:39 BST

For many years, I’ve been saying that I believed companies and their employees would eventually move to a hybrid working model, with people being given the flexibility to get their work done when and where they’re most productive. This shift was taking place pre-Covid at a gradual pace, but now it’s happening at break-neck speed, and there there’s no turning back. Hybrid working is here stay.

Hybrid working is better for people, cheaper and far more flexible for companies. The advent of hybrid has made it redundant for many companies to tie themselves into inflexible and expensive long-term contracts on city-centre properties, while also having a hugely positive impact on the environment.

This type of working is being rapidly adopted by companies worldwide and it’s already changed the actions business leaders are taking when it comes to managing their property footprint. In IWG’s recent CFO study, half of the financial leaders surveyed have already opted for some form of hybrid working solution.

The reasoning for this shift to hybrid is simple: the approach gives them the flexibility to scale up or down quickly without being locked into lengthy contracts. It’s also a ‘no brainer’ when it comes to profit, with an independent Global Analytics survey recently showing that hybrid working can save organisations an average of more than $11,000 per employee per year.

Savings of that scale ramp up dramatically. It’s estimated that since Cisco went hybrid five years ago it has saved around $500 million by cutting around half of its real-estate footprint.

Little has done more over the years to depress, stress and irritate workers than the daily commute, affecting people in otherwise fantastic careers, in exceptional cities and with great employers. It separates families, fractures communities, pollutes the environment and wastes vast amounts of time and money.

Today the daily commute is entirely unnecessary, because the office is no longer a physical place that people have to go to. Rather, it is a digital space, where data saved in the cloud is accessible at any time, from anywhere.

Technology is therefore the enabler that is now empowering the employees of millions of businesses around the world to work however and wherever they want. This really matters to people: our research shows that 77% of employees see a place to work closer to home as a must-have for their next job and around half would quit if forced back to a single central location five days a week.

While sophisticated web-based technology has been around for a few years, it has only been since the pandemic when companies have seen first-hand that not only does hybrid work, but they are able to thrive under the model. Firms are able to operate more efficiently with a more productive workforce, while employees are happier as they see hybrid working as the equivalent of a 7% to 8% pay rise.

Companies likewise want hybrid, driven by cost savings, productivity improvements and a more attractive employee offering that will help them win the war for talent. According to Stanford University’s Professor Nicholas Bloom, acknowledged as the leading academic expert on hybrid: “Firms don’t do things that lose them money. They do things that make them money. That’s why every firm just about out there is doing hybrid, because it’s such a no-brainer to increase profit”.

Hybrid is also what the planet needs. In a recent study in partnership with Arup, it was established that the daily commute contributes up to 70% of an individual worker’s carbon footprint. Cutting that commute makes an immediate impact, while boosting workers’ happiness and work/life balance.

So, something very big, and very important, is happening in the world of work as the hybrid model unarguably delivers a win-win for companies and the employees of businesses everywhere. Quit rates are down 35% as happier, more engaged people boost productivity, all while CFOs simultaneously cut unnecessary expense from their bottom lines and more localised working has the potential to deliver significant carbon savings. With gains as valuable as these, there is no going back.

Mark Dixon is strategic founding partner of the E2E100. You can view the complete E2E Tech 100 track here

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