The trend of flexible working is having a profound impact on suburban areas outside of big cities, creating jobs and boosting local economies, according to new research commissioned by Regus.
The study, one of the first to examine the socio-economic impact of flexible workspaces in secondary cities and suburban locations, looked at 19 countries, including Canada.
It revealed that about 144 new jobs are created in Canadian communities that contain a flexible workspace. This can generate $29.55 million in gross value added per year, of which $17.62 million goes directly into the local economy. In the next decade, local contributions could amount to $13.7 billion annually if the trend keeps up, with communities across the country seeing more than three million jobs by 2029.
As big companies adopt flexible working policies in favour of the central HQ model, they are locating more employees to flex spaces outside of major urban hubs. For most, the objective is to improve employee wellbeing, save money and boost productivity.
“This study reveals a shift in jobs and capital-growth moving outside of city centres, where it has been focused for the last few decades, into suburban locations,” said Steve Lucas of Development Economics, and report author. “This can benefit businesses and people, from improving productivity and innovation, to reducing commuting time, which leads to improved health and wellbeing.”
Access to a local office space is expected to save Canadian workers a combined 9,348 hours (389 days) per year. Persons with disabilities and those taking on care-giver roles could also find more work opportunities with such convenient office space.
Convenient office space has a further societal advantage, by providing working opportunities to people who might otherwise be unable to travel to an office. This could include disabled people, as well as those with caring responsibilities. As the labour markets tighten, local flexible workspaces could open new routes to top talent.
Economists found that an individual flexible workspace or co-working centre in suburbia can not only create jobs outside the centre for people who live nearby, but also fuel local businesses and services and form a “sandwich economy.”
“Access to flexible workspaces in smaller markets keeps spending power closer to home,” says Wayne Berger, CEO, IWG Canada and Latin America (IWG owns Regus). “We’re seeing an increase in demand from companies of all sizes for flexible space in smaller cities and towns. Larger businesses are opting for a ‘hub and spoke’ real estate model, while smaller enterprises want to cluster and collaborate — so many are choosing flexible workspaces close to home.”
If current trends towards regional flexible working continues, these communities could see more than three million jobs created by 2029, the equivalent to a city the size of Montreal.