On 23 June, the UK voted to leave the European Union in the ‘Brexit’ referendum. Richard Morris, UK CEO at Regus, reflects on the impact of that vote on British business, and how companies should respond in the face of a turbulent market.
The outcome of the recent referendum has left British business in a unique state of flux. While the wrangling continues in the political world, a definitive picture of British economics and trading will take much longer to emerge. Formally leaving the European Union will take up to two years from the moment Article 50 is invoked. As it stands, there is no concrete timeline for when that process may begin.
In the meantime, businesses face the challenge of plotting a course through these uncertain times – no easy task when the rules are constantly shifting. But there are strategic decisions that companies can make now to protect their business, particularly when it comes to their premises.
Put simply, there couldn’t be a worse time to commit to investing in property or long-term leases. As the impact of Brexit on property values cannot be predicted, purchasing office space or tying the business into five- or ten-year leasing deals would both involve high levels of risk. What’s more, the criteria for a sensible business location are likely to change radically over the next few years.
The answer to this is to think more flexibly about location and workspace needs. The network of professional office space throughout the United Kingdom and across the world is vast, and growing at an ever-increasing rate. This flexible space can be rented on an as-needed basis, for as little as an hour at a time, enabling businesses to react swiftly and cost-effectively to market turbulence.
Pre-Brexit, there was already a noticeable shift in mindset. Businesses have been moving away from a fixed-location, 9-to-5 approach, towards a more flexible set-up. The vote to leave will be a catalyst to accelerate this process and spur more businesses into reimagining their ways of working.
The current business climate makes strategic planning difficult. As businesses adapt to change, it becomes essential to have a flexible workspace that can do the same. British businesses cannot afford to wait for further macroeconomic data to filter through from those tasked with setting the agenda. Rather, forward-thinking businesses must manoeuvre now, in order to ride out the current storm and be in position to benefit from future opportunities.