Is flexible office space the answer to managing increased leasing liabilities in 2019?

Specialist insight

Is flexible office space the answer to managing increased leasing liabilities in 2019?

IFRS 2019: new lease standards and flexible office solutions

New rules on lease accounting are on the horizon, so businesses that lease their office space will face the prospect of listing property on their balance sheets as liabilities. Clive Jarvis, group financial controller at Regus, explains why flexible office space could be the answer.

New ways to reduce new liabilities

In accounting terms, leasing is currently treated as an off-balance-sheet activity, having no impact on net assets. Starting in 2019, however, changes in accounting requirements mean rent and lease payments will need to be listed on balance sheets, increasing company liability. Firms will have to find new ways to reduce these new liabilities.

To buy or not to buy?

One possibility might be to purchase office space and make that property a permanent company asset. However, there are disadvantages to this approach. Most firms don’t have the spare cash lying around to buy their offices outright and would therefore have to take out a mortgage, which comes with significant upfront costs – money they would rather invest in their business. Coupled with the maintenance liabilities and lack of location agility this creates, this might prove a poor choice for new and growth-focused businesses.

With liabilities attached to both leasing and purchasing, what options do businesses have to counter the upcoming assault on their bottom line? A more attractive option could be to investigate the flexible office space market, a growth industry in recent years thanks to its agility and cost effectiveness.

Use it or lose it

Fixed office space can often be an inefficient and unnecessary expenditure, with one study finding that desks can go unused for as much as half the workday. Come 2019, the need to quantify every square foot will be even more pressing. Many firms are already dispensing with individual desks and using technology to create shared spaces, thereby increasing efficiency. One HR company found that its flexible work space increased by more than one-third in the three years leading up to 2015, while a Regus study carried out in summer 2014 showed that 31 percent of companies had observed an increase in flexible work space the prior year.

Flexible space = flexible contracts

Another advantage of flexible office space can be the flexibility in contract terms, allowing serviced spaces to be offered for as little as one day or permanent suites of offices to be leased for longer periods. With rents charged by the workstation, cost efficiency is key. Firms can expand and shrink their working space and costs in accordance with the ebb and flow of their business.

Supplying additional services

Serviced offices can be the best option for firms seeking to focus on their own business activities and leave the peripherals, such as reception, IT, cleaning and maintenance, to someone else. Having all these extras on tap is especially attractive to startup companies, and major cities around the world have seen huge growth in serviced space in recent years.

Flexible and serviced office space is already an appealing prospect for many businesses. The looming changes in lease accounting mean that it’s more critical than ever to make office-space spend more agile and efficient. With providers matching the changing needs of modern business, these flexible and efficient spaces could be the solution.