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Flexibility will be one of the most significant drivers for office tenants in 2021 – Ramona Predescu (Iacob), IWG

Ramona Predescu (Iacob) has been Country Manager at IWG Romania for more than 7 years, and has been supporting the company’s growth efforts for over 12 years. Her role involves growth management, driving customer satisfaction, achieving market goals and commercial sales leadership, as well as implementing the SPACES concept.

IWG provides serviced offices, virtual offices, meeting rooms, and videoconferencing services at a global level, in 125 countries. In Romania, IWG has 8 Regus locations and 2 SPACES locations and will soon open the third.

Being one of the most important international players in the flexible offices industries, we wanted to get a better grasp of how the pandemic impacted them and what their future plans are in order to stay ahead of the game.

Main takeaways:

  • Technological advancements made working from anywhere easier than ever, and tenants expect flexibility & custom-made solutions
  • The future of office spaces showcasing is a mix of virtual and physical tours
  • Large companies are looking into offering to their employee options to work closer to their homes
  • The Hybrid model of working has become the new normal and it is here to stay.

Main business directions for IWG Romania in 2021

Ramona Predescu (Iacob) considers that after 2020, 2021 is a year of change, and ”IWG through the flexible products we have today and many more to come is part of that change.

In regards to their plans for 2021, maintaining a proper mix of products and embracing flexibility is one of the main focus points for the developer:

We keep our direction, which means we will continue offering flexibility.This means having a range of choices as to what type of contract you require for your office space: whether you have a dedicated space, a space shared with another company, or even capacity for a number of individuals in a coworking environment. And it can also mean having the ability to add extra space as and when it’s needed. In all its forms, flexibility will be one of the most significant drivers for office tenants in 2021.

Adapting to new regulations

The pandemic brought many new restrictions, regulations and imposed a new way of working in a shared space. Ramona Predescu (Iacob) says that they adapted to all these changes fast and took all the measures in order to keep their communities safe and healthy when working from one of their locations:

We are implementing hygiene and physical distancing measures across all our locations as recommended by local governments and the World Health Organization (WHO).

We have increased the frequency of cleaning during the day, focusing on high touchpoint areas, surface and workspace cleaning to meet global health and safety regulations.

We have taken the principles of physical distancing and adapted them for the workplace. This includes how people move around our centres, with clear information, signage and protocols in place to ensure minimal person-to-person contact. Our private offices, meeting rooms, business clubs etc. are now implemented with all measures needed in order to create a safe place to work.

The digitization of the real estate industry

Technology reshapes the real estate industry and IWG makes sure to keep up with the developments. Ramona thinks that with the growth of cloud, automation and AI, working from anywhere becomes easier than ever.

Workers now expect and demand greater flexibility. When digital technology makes it possible for them to work anywhere, why should they endure a lengthy daily commute? They want to work for a business where they can collaborate and be productive wherever and whenever they need.

Digitalization is part of our daily life and will continue to develop even more so for sure we will see very soon new apps, new technology that will allow us to work from everywhere or to buy/rent an office very easy, the same way we buy today our daily stuff.

In IWG we continue investing in great technology that helps us drive our business, we have multiple platforms that support us in doing our job: sales and operations, customers research platform, development platforms etc. We continue investing in our IT infrastructures in our locations and also developing our apps that allow both our people and our customers to stay connected all the time. They also enable customers to book immediately what they need – an office, meeting room, flex product etc). We have even a broker app that allows us to get instant inquiries from our brokers etc.

Showcasing office spaces in the future

Virtual showcasing is here to stay, especially because they help people follow safety regulations, save time and money and see (and even rent) spaces remotely. For IWG, this shift to virtual tours or consultative phone tours has already happened, but they are not giving up in-person tours. Instead, they aim for the optimum mix:

From now on we are ready and we work to get better and better in combining both virtual tours and physical tours. This is the future anyway, it is just now more obvious than it was before.

Leasing spaces in a pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed things for the commercial real estate and has had tenants, brokers and developers renegotiate terms. Tenants now have new expectations and once again, Ramona emphasizes the necessity of flexibility and also of customizing solutions:

Our prospects and customers are more focused now on getting the most flexible product or lease term than before. Large companies are looking into offering their employee options to work closer to their homes and this is helping us as we do cover the entire city – Bucharest (globally even better as we are the largest provider on the market being present in 125 countries with more than 3200 locations worldwide).

Small companies are interested in our memberships, virtual offices, or dedicated coworking as they need a very cost-efficient option. So yes, things have changed, we see a higher demand for the products that offer this flexibility, but we think this is normal.

We were presenting, offering, and having such demands even before, but now we see a much higher interest from companies that before were only thinking in their private conventional space.

Every company now looks at the lowest risk option and we are happy to be able to provide this for them, we are happy to be able to offer custom build solutions.

Future of work

There are many trends emerging or having emerged already, changing the way companies and employees work: work from home, work from near home, work from anywhere and other variations. How does a big developer see these new approaches? Ramona says that when it comes to IWG, the new normality is the hybrid model:

I am not a believer in work from home only, it is not natural, it is against our human nature and I believe that in the long term it will affect people in both their professional and personal life.

Many of us wish to be able to choose and work closer to our homes and this is part of a hybrid working style that all companies out there have started to look into.

I think the Hybrid model of working has become the new normal and, in my view or IWG view, it is here to stay.

For sure, things will continue to change, with technology, flexibility, and rapidity in adapting to new working trends being the main focus point for developers/landlords. Less rigid contracts, custom-build solutions created with each client type in mind, and the digitization of more and more processes are at the heart of the commercial real estate revolution and strong players, such as IWG, have already understood this and started integrating these concepts and many more in their long-term strategy.

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