International Workplace Group (IWG), the English multinational flexible workspace company , knows well how the Spanish market works. It has been present in the country for almost three decades and already has 55 centers spread over 16 cities , including Madrid, Barcelona, Alicante, Bilbao, Zaragoza and Seville. In total, it has more than 105,000 m2 operating under the Spaces, Regus and HQ brands.
At the head of the company in Spain is Philippe Jiménez, who has led and witnessed the obligatory evolution of the sector at the forefront. He believes that the pandemic has accelerated changes in the flexible workspace segment by a decade and confirms that large corporations are leading the current demand.
The expert explains to elEconomista what the company’s plans are in the coming months and the challenges facing the sector. IWG workspaces are present in 120 countries and serve 2.5 million users.
How have flexible workspaces evolved on the inside in the last year and a half?
The corporate policies of companies are favoring greater flexibility for their employees due to the increase in remote work during the last year. This has a positive impact on the work and personal balance of users, migrating towards a hybrid and more decentralized model. Our centers are constantly evolving, adapting to the needs of consumers. Each of the IWG brands aims to promote creativity, productivity, corporate community, networking and much more, with spaces that stimulate each of these aspects.
All this with an obligatory capacity reduction …
In the last year we had to adapt to the measures imposed to contain the pandemic, reducing capacity, but without losing the essence of our centers. Despite this, we seek to maintain the positive aspects that differentiate our centers, in terms of design we work with many regular suppliers whose catalog is identified with the philosophy of the different IWG office brands.
We loyally incorporate and maintain new European suppliers to our repertoire so that coworking centers around the world have a similar style. This allows us to adapt to the client and offer him a personalized, high-quality, fast, industrial and homogeneous service, whether in Milan or Dakar.
Has the profile of IWG users changed?
There is no more occupant profile. The explosion of flexible spaces and the implementation of hybrid work have meant that there is no longer a specific occupant profile. This is happening all over the world. The demand is now led by corporate companies, mostly because it has a dilemma: how to get people back to the office and how to be productive. There is everything, small and large companies, freelancers …
The Covid-19 has accelerated a decade of change in flexible workspaces. Before the crisis there was exponential growth, but with an abysmal growth margin. Flexible work offices accounted for between 2% and 3% of the real estate portfolio of large companies in Madrid and Barcelona, a figure that has risen to 30% and 40%.
Is the hybrid work model going to be consolidated in Spain?
Of course. There are very few arguments to destroy the strategy of a company that wants to reduce the emission of gases, promote the well-being of people and the economic performance of the company. In addition, cost reduction is very important, there is no doubt. Against this there is little to say. Having a central office is essential, as meetings can be held there and it also offers access to technologies. However, it is also necessary to have satellite centers. The work can be done from anywhere.
Where are you in the demand for flexible workspaces from IWG?
Demand and visits are slightly higher than September 20219 at all IWG centers in Europe. It is a very encouraging figure, there is a new reality that is to return to the offices and do it in flexible spaces due to the introduction of hybrid work.
For example, the Spaces de Azca center opened in June and is already 100% full, while the Recoletos center is already full, as is the Gijón center. We have taken the risk of continuing with our opening and growth plan during the pandemic, especially in the provinces, which is much more difficult to open provinces.
Precisely, one of its great bets is to grow beyond the big cities …
We are doing a great job of decentralization, we have set it as a challenge, which will bring great benefits to companies and people. It makes no sense that talent is forced to travel to large capitals to grow and find employment.
Our spaces allow people to work from anywhere, and that means a great saving in capital, time, energy and effort. Similarly, the greatest strengths of flexible work offices is that they represent a benefit for all those involved: from the entrepreneurs themselves, to their workers and our planet, since it reduces travel and therefore the carbon footprint.
What are the company’s investment plans in Spain in the medium term?
Our commitment to the Spanish market has been in constant expansion for 30 years, focused on being present in all provincial capitals and other cities between now and 2030. Our goal is to bring work closer to professionals through flexible work spaces that have all the necessary services to be able to carry out their professional tasks.
At the beginning of 2021, we set out to develop and start up up to 30,000 m2 of flexible workspaces in cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Alicante, Zaragoza, Oviedo and towns on the periphery, and that is exactly what we have been doing. We have opened 22,500m2 this year and have begun work on another 22,500m2. In Barcelona, for example, we have opened the Spaces Mas de Roda and Spaces Gran Vía; In Madrid we inaugurated Spaces Campo de las Naciones, Spaces Recoletos,
The HQ brand has also landed for the first time in Spain …
Yes. Just a week ago we opened the coworking center under the HQ brand in Las Rozas, Madrid. It has about 800 m2 of gross leasable area, which allows it to offer up to 120 jobs. In addition, it has three meeting spaces and another three rooms designed to offer training courses. In total, it has meant an initial investment of 450,000 euros.
Does IWG plan to grow through the acquisition of competitors?
The expansion of IWG goes hand in hand with its own investment and a global franchise program that is underway in several countries where we are present. In fact, we have recently announced that at the beginning of next year we will open the first franchise center in Spain, together with the Asturian investor and businessman Inaciu Suarez Echevarria, who has more than 20 years of experience in various sectors and, now, is committed to spaces coworking.
The franchise is signed under the name of Regus Mendizabal 1, and will be located in one of the most emblematic buildings in the capital of Asturias, Oviedo, specifically in the building on Calle Mendizábal, the former headquarters of the Banco Asturiano.
Are the measures implemented in the aftermath of the crisis going to be maintained beyond the pandemic?
Not all measurements. We have not reduced any in health matters, but in the future this whole issue will be made more flexible. Office spaces include 1.5 meters of distance between users, but it is logical to think that as the incidence of the pandemic relaxes, there will be changes.
Will traditional offices as we know them end up disappearing?
They will not disappear, but we are increasingly moving to a hybrid format that combines days at the office, at home and in coworkings. For a long time, in most companies and large corporations it has been estimated that about 50% of the space is not used, even before the pandemic there was already talk of this phenomenon.
If we think about the future of coworking, with its versatile possibilities of flexible spaces, it offers the best solution to lower costs without losing quality, and with the added value of access to the most advanced technology and innovation. IWG spaces add positively to these work realities and tomorrow, giving the user freedom and providing spaces that promote creativity and community anywhere in the world.
At what point of recovery is the Spanish market compared to other European countries?
If we look back ten years ago we see that coworking has had a great development in Spain, despite the adversities arising from the pandemic.
According to a recent study by TeamViewer, a German remote connectivity multinational, Spain is one of the three countries in Europe with the greatest commitment to digitizing workers without a fixed place of work, along with Italy and Poland, which implies that workers attach great importance to the influence of technologies and the digital mega-trends of the future in their profession. For us, digitization and flexibility is key, allowing workers the possibility to combine their workplace in coworking centers, at home and corporate headquarters.
How important is the office sector in the reactivation of work activity?
Flexible workspaces are the strategic ally of small and large companies, freelancers or startups. They offer workers the possibility of working in a safe and adapted environment to meet all the needs of current times. In addition, one of the greatest strengths of flexible work offices is that they represent a benefit for all those involved: from the entrepreneurs themselves, to their workers and our planet, since it reduces travel and therefore the carbon footprint.
And finally, flexible work spaces can also be perceived as an opportunity for some groups that have been more punished by unemployment. They no longer have to travel far or even change cities to work, since they can do it from a coworking near their home.