A few weeks ago, property developer Ayala Land, Inc. launched its first co-working space called ‘Clock In,’ a 400-square meter facility located in the heart of the Makati business district. That one of the country’s largest real estate companies is betting on the ‘shared office’ trend and betting big—Ayala is already looking at expanding ‘Clock In’ starting next year—shows the changing nature of the workspace, driven largely by the equally changing profile of the workforce.
Mobile. Independent. Creative. That is how Deloitte described the emerging Swiss workforce in a report on how digital technology and the “sharing economy” are redefining that country’s workplaces. But this could very well apply to Filipinos and the Philippines.
Switzerland’s shift from an agricultural to a service economy laid the groundwork for its increasingly mobile workforce. Seventy-five percent of Swiss employees now work in the service sector, and a significant proportion of that demographic holds knowledge-intensive jobs—those that involve non-routine problem-solving through non-linear and creative thinking.
In the Philippines, the services sector started becoming the largest employer in the year 2000, averaging a 59.1 percent share in national employment from 2010 to 2014. Under this sector, the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is currently the most aggressive employer, and growing demand for more specialized skills in that industry indicates we will also see the rise of more creative and analytical workers in our backyard.
Digitization is another development that is helping redefine the way we work. In 2015, 85 percent of Swiss citizens were mobile internet users. In 2016, 55 percent of Filipinos had a mobile broadband subscription, according to data from Globe. Considering what we can do with smartphones nowadays, more and more Filipinos will find that they no longer need to stay in a traditional office for eight hours to get their jobs done.
In response to this evolving workforce, workspaces need to be more flexible.
The Deloitte report on the Swiss workforce found that of the 1,000 people surveyed, 28 percent are currently working from home on at least one half-day a week. This figure is expected to climb as more workers have expressed the desire to work from home or to do that more often.
This could contribute substantially to a reduction in the amount of traffic on the road during peak hours. Commuters traveling to and from work result in overburdened roads and rail infrastructure during rush hours. According to a study by consulting firm Ecoplan, Switzerland stands to save about US$141 million in transport costs annually if flexible workplace models are adopted more extensively.
Could this be the solution to our traffic problems?
There are estimates that Makati alone experiences a tenfold increase in population during the daytime due to the number of workers trooping to the city for their 8-to-5 jobs. Imagine the reduction in traffic, pollution and idle time we could realize if even just a quarter of those workers had to make that commute only four times—instead of five—a week.
An alternative to the work-from-home option is the shared office space where workers can rent offices and meeting rooms on an hourly basis. Also called ‘office communities,’ these spaces allow workers to network and tap the expertise of other professionals, paving the way for collaboration and innovation.
In Switzerland, 79 percent of co-working space providers count freelancers among their customers, but one in four providers say they also serve company employees. In fact, 26 percent of those surveyed said they expect their biggest growth in customer demand to come from the larger companies. This suggests that employers are also open to this flexible work arrangement and that not all workers automatically take the work-from-home option when available.
In the Philippines where home broadband access can be spotty and not everyone has a printer, scanner, and other office equipment on hand, the co-working space is an attractive alternative to working from home. Workers have the conveniences of a traditional office without being bound to a single location.
These flexible work arrangements could spell the end of the classic office, or at least render it less common, which is not surprising considering the benefits. Whether a business gives employees the option to work from home or from a co-working space, these flexible workplace models allow for more efficient use of office space and a reduction in costs, and makes employers more attractive especially to millennials. For us in the Philippines, this could also mean the end to the daily tragedy that is EDSA.
The author is the tax leader of Navarro Amper & Co., the local member firm of Deloitte Southeast Asia Ltd., a member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited—comprising Deloitte practices operating in Brunei, Cambodia, Guam, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.