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When you can’t work from home, Part 3

Jan 05, 20043 mins
Enterprise Applications

Can executive business centers suit corporate teleworkers?

As telework grows, so grows the telework center market, at least in theory. Recently, we looked at SuiteWorks and TechSpace. SuiteWorks is building corporate telework facilities from the ground up; TechSpace offers flexible offices and has added free Wi-Fi access to attract customers.

When you can’t work from home, Part 1

When you can’t work from home, Part 2

But providing a workspace and services to itinerate workers is nothing new. Companies such as HQ Global Workspace and U.K.-based Regus, which provide high-end business suite services worldwide to mobile executives, have been around since 1962 and 1989, respectively. The worldwide leader, Regus has 90 centers in the U.S. alone and 60,000 customers worldwide in 50 countries. HQ is No. 2 with 200 centers and 25,000 customers.

But if you’re looking to expand your telework operation beyond home offices, are the incumbents’ facilities suitable for use as corporate telework centers? Are these companies trying to capture your business? HQ Global Workplace yes, Regus no.

There are a couple of factors here. Since the business suites market is closely tied to the real estate market, Regus and HQ both took a beating in the slow economy. Each were forced to restructure their organizations and shut down facilities. Today, they’re each in recovery, not expansion, mode.

Then there’s location and company culture. Regus prides itself in having facilities in landmark buildings in major cities, preferring highly visible locations like along major intersections. “We’re at the heart of things. We don’t lurk in the suburbs,” a company representative says.

That strategy might appeal to global execs, but it won’t appeal to companies trying to shorten employees’ commutes and condense office space. In contrast, 80% of HQ’s facilities do “lurk in the suburbs,” because a company representative says, “People want to work closer to their homes.”

In fact, HQ went after the corporate telework market in better times and plans to do so again as business improves. In the past, HQ teamed up with a financial company to create a pilot telework center for 200 of its employees, then went on to win a few more telework clients. But in the past couple of years, HQ has targeted mainly independent consultants and small business owners.

Now Joe Wallace, HQ’s executive vice president of development, says the company has begun adapting its existing facilities for telework and has “specific plans to test the waters in companies with a large install base of teleworkers.”

Regus has no plans to expand or shift directions, but it has begun selling franchises to businesses in several Arab countries.

A much smaller business suites firm with its eye on telework is Washington, D.C.-based Preferred Offices. Today, the firm has four downtown centers with prestige addresses, one right down the block from the White House. Even so, the company has gotten itself on the list of vendors the Government Services Administration does business with, and has seen some limited traffic by government teleworkers. But unlike Regus, Preferred Offices plans to open between two and four facilities in the Virginia suburbs this year.

“We aspire to have locations all over the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, which will compliment our Washington, D.C. centers,” says Angie O’Grady, vice president and COO.