Commuting? This should be a thing of the past

A journalist reporting on the Swiss Economic Forum for the business section of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung at the weekend wrote how Mark Dixon, the British founder of the former Regus Group, which provides office space on short time bases around the world, said he thought commuting could soon be a thing of the past.

Dixon himself had experienced difficult times with his Regus Group, not least after the bursting of the “dotcom” bubble and the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. However, after guiding it through troubled waters for almost 30 years, never before had he found his job so exciting, he said.

The Regus Group has since become the International Workplace Group (IWG), which, since 2016, has been headquartered in Zug. Dixon believes the market for office space is on the cusp of fundamental change, with fewer and fewer companies providing their employees with a fixed place from which to work. “I believe more and more employees will be encouraged to work from home or, where necessary, work from so-called co-working spaces,” he said. However, he did not support people working entirely from home, as he felt many would lack the necessary discipline.

The entrepreneur, who claims IWG is by far the world’s largest provider in this area, is now seeking to extend this leading position, with thousands more co-working spaces being added to the 3,300 centres he has scattered around the world in 110 countries. Indeed, here in Switzerland he is planning to increase the number of co-working centres from 30 to over 100 over the next three years.

The journalist wrote how Dixon had boasted how IWG would soon become a known presence in towns no matter how small they were. While it was clear it would be impossible for them to be financed by the company alone, Dixon planned to work in cooperation with partners such as local authorities, pension funds and property companies. In particular reference to this latter sector, he said, “We will enable them to move office space from the old world to the new.”

The businessman went on to say how he felt it was anachronism that today employees still covered great distances to get to a central place of work. “It would be far better if they worked from an office nearer to their home,” he said, pointing out how young people in particular wanted greater flexibility in this area and solutions which allowed them more time to do what they wanted. “So much valuable time is wasted on commuting,” he said, adding how he felt firms which could offer shorter routes to work would benefit when it came to recruitment, too. Companies operating from co-working spaces would also benefit by being able to reduce their fixed costs.

When the 58-year-old was asked how employees might feel when meeting different office colleagues each time they went to work, he said, “This is no problem. There is nothing more inspiring than meeting new people at one’s place of  work,” while recognising that how to facilitate this contact between various workers was one of its main tasks.

IWG employs just under 9,000, of whom just 160 work at the headquarters in Zug. It is part of their job, too, to make the work of the 2-5 million employees who work from IWG premises around the world as pleasant as possible.

Dixon, who owns a 25-per-cent share in IWG, which is valued at just under £3 billion, is showing no desire to slow down, or take retirement, expansion plans and luring financial investors taking up much of his time. What has been noticed of late is that rumours of takeovers have been circulating, though when asked about this he declined to comment, other than to say so much interest proved he must be on the right tracks.

The photograph is for illustrative purposes only

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