Flexible offices could contribute to local Canadian economies in next decade: study

Flexible office spaces and co-working locations could contribute more than $13.7 billion to local Canadian economies in the next decade as they become more prevalent outside of major urban centres, according to a new study commissioned by global flexible working space firm Regus.

The study found, on average, 144 new jobs are created in Canadian communities with flexible workspaces and an extra $17.6 million per year goes directly into local economies. The additional jobs are attributed to the presence of businesses and employees stimulating the local economy.

The study looked at 19 countries to determine how flexible workspaces are impacting secondary and tertiary cities, as well as suburban areas currently and through the next 10 years. It found the growth in so-called local working is being driven by larger companies adopting flexible working policies, being less reliant on central head offices and basing employees outside of major urban centres in flexible work spaces in order to save money and increase employee well-being and productivity.

Read: Majority of Canadian organizations offer flexible working options

“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, managing director of Development Economics and the study’s author, in a press release. “This can benefit businesses and people, from improving productivity and innovation to reducing commuting time, which leads to improved health and well-being.”

The study found local office space could significantly cut commuting times and save Canadian workers a combined 9,348 hours, or 389 days, per year in transit. That could lead to a reduction in stress and increased staff morale and overall mental well-being.

In addition, the study noted other social benefits. “Convenient office space . . . [provides] working opportunities to people who might otherwise be unable to travel to an office,” Regus said in a press release. “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.”

Read: Third of employees have left job for flexible working options

Looking forward at the next decade, if current trends in regional flexible workplaces continue, the study anticipated that communities could see more than three million jobs created.

“Access to flexible workspaces in smaller markets keeps spending power closer to home,” said Wayne Berger, chief executive officer of IWG Canada and Latin America, the firm that 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.”