Much of the conversation about on-shoring, off-shoring or north-shoring in the professional services sector is about finding more cost effective ways to offer the same products and services.
As a consequence, the discussion surrounding its benefits is more centred on reduced labour costs than real estate savings, but for professional services businesses with city centre offices, property is a huge overhead, second only to people.
The aftermath of the credit crunch prompted many businesses to take a closer look at their costs and find ways to reduce overheads in search for more agility. For those businesses that lost significant proportions of their workforce to redundancy, the empty spaces they left were all too real and the need to rationalise space and overheads all too obvious.
It’s now widely accepted that agility improves the chances of business survival, making companies able to weather changing marketing conditions and capitalise on new opportunities. Agility is made possible, in the main, by the proliferation of mobile devices that have changed our working behaviours and the relationship between employers and employees. Workers are now mobile, transient and trusted and with new working patterns (think freelancers, job-sharers and flexi-time workers) and behaviours (remote and home-working etc) comes a different set of requirements for the spaces we occupy.
It’s these new workplace behaviours that are driving workplace change and helping to reduce property costs. A more transient workforce and one that is tech-enabled has less need to work from one central location – after all it has broken the link between the act of work and the place of work. Combine this with the fact that desk occupancy is at less than 60% and you can see that offices are now just one of a number of environments where work takes place.
Large professional services firms will always want a city centre presence, that much is true, but whether it needs to be home to an entire workforce day after day is quite another. In the last 10 years there’s been a huge move towards creating dynamic, engaging and motivating workspaces that provide a plethora of work settings to accommodate the different tasks undertaken throughout the day. With the focus more on shared spaces rather than owned desks, it gives us a nod as to what the future might hold.
Large, multi floor offices where hundreds of people are based every day will make way for smaller collaborative hub spaces that workers visit for team projects and a dose of company culture. Large offices in high cost locations will be reduced in size and reserved for giving the best brand experience and first impression to clients.
As employees embrace a more autonomous relationship with their employers, able to choose when they’ll shun the morning rush hour for a productive day working from home, workplace change is both inevitable and necessary.
Although the financial benefits of onshoring are widely known, the greater opportunity for effective cost management comes from improving our understanding of how work is done and looking to the future to predict how this might evolve.
Forward-thinking cost-conscious businesses know that changing workplace behaviours stand to deliver the best financial benefits, both in terms of unleashing extra productivity, wellbeing and engagement and in delivering very useful cost savings too.