Changing the way we work
A glimpse into the future of how work is performed can be seen as an increasing number of businesses around the world start to use serviced-office solutions.
While the Asia-Pacific share of the serviced-office market is the smallest internationally, it is also growing the fastest. Regus, the world’s largest provider of flexible workspace, knows this as well as anyone. With a listing on the London Stock Exchange and a presence in over 90 countries, the company has bold expansion plans that look to take advantage of the growing Asia-Pacific segment.
Hans Leijten, Regus’ regional vice-president for East Asia, explains how the company’s drive to find better ways to work will affect businesses in Asia.
How big is Regus?
We are the largest provider of flexible workspace in the world and also the largest in the Asia-Pacific region. No other company in the same business space comes close to our scale or reach – you will find a local Regus in over 1,200 locations around the globe.
Does Regus only provide service offices?
Regus is a provider of flexible workspace, and serviced offices are just one line of products that we offer. In the same way that Google is much more than just a search engine, and HP is more than a seller of consumer PCs, Regus provides more than just one project run.
What is your position in Asia and plans for the future here?
We have been present in Asia for 17 years, and in fact China was our first country in the region – we opened in Beijing’s Lufthansa Centre in 1995. Five years later, we had 20 locations in eight Asian countries, and today we have over 170 locations in 16 countries. There has been a huge growth in demand across the region.
When we first opened, it was generally to provide launch pads into Asia’s economies for multinational companies. Today, however, at least 50 per cent, and often as much as 80 per cent, of our business within a given country comes from customers based locally. Going forwards, we are expanding our network to new cities, as well as building up our existing city-wide networks to support third-place [workspaces that are neither at home or the office] and mobile workers.
Are you hiring as you expand?
We are indeed hiring across most markets, and at a variety of levels, from entry-level customer-support staff to managerial roles in sales.
We offer international-grade training and development programmes, plus the opportunity to work with a fast-growing market leader.
What makes Regus stand out from similar companies in the region?
Our size has given us the ability to innovate, so we now offer our customers not just the scalability to expand into 550 cities worldwide, but also a range of different options to suit their business needs. We have a global research centre in Geneva with teams dedicated to developing better ways of working for our customers – and we are able to roll these out in Asia. For example, Regus BusinessLink is an online trading portal exclusive to Regus that allows all our customers to trade with each other.
How relevant is the serviced-office industry to businesses?
At Regus right now we are more preoccupied with the structural changes to the workplace driven by the explosion in mobile working, and the opportunities within that. We are seeing a huge move globally towards more mobile and flexible ways of working. Thanks to technology, people don’t have to be tied to their desks any more, and businesses are seeing huge benefits in distributing their workforces and letting them work closer to home or on the road.
This has created new demand for professional workspaces and third places, and Regus as a business is perfectly positioned to help companies in this area. We’ve already helped some big clients in the US and UK transition to a flexible work model, and as we grow our network across China and Asia, we will also be doing the same here.
What is Regus doing in light of the ongoing economic uncertainty?
While of course we are keeping abreast of the global economic climate, I see two strong opportunities for Regus as a business. First, in times of global uncertainty, business leaders look for areas where costs can be reduced without a negative impact on growth prospects down the line. Cost-efficiency is at the heart of what we offer to our customers, so there is a huge drive for us to educate the market as to what benefits flexible working can bring.
Secondly, it is a good time for businesses like ours that are willing to invest in growth. We have a stated aim of reaching 2,000 locations by 2014, and a lot of growth will come from markets like China. We have already opened ten locations in China this year, with more in the pipeline.
What is next for Regus?
We are very excited about a few projects happening globally around the concept of third place. In Europe we’ve announced partnerships with SNCF, the French national railway, and NS, the Dutch national railway, to build Regus centres inside train stations. In France we’re also piloting a drop-in Regus location at a Shell petrol station. Closer to home, we are partnering with the Japan Telework Association, a semi-government body, to be the first commercial provider of flexible workspaces to their corporate members.