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Britain on a ‘downer’, says IWG boss as firm mulls US listing

IWG chief executive Mark Dixon
IWG chief executive Mark Dixon

The boss of IWG has branded Britain as being on “bit of a downer” as the company continues to mull over a potential switch from a UK to a US listing.

Mark Dixon, who founded the flexible working firm formerly known as Regus in 2016, said that the UK economy “looked very sluggish from the outside” and so we will “keep considering” a move across the pond.

Dixon made the comments during an interview with the Sunday Times in which he also announced that IWG is hoping to manage 2,000 new offices across the UK within the next five years.

The bold target, which equates to one new centre a day, represents a major ramp-up of openings for the company, which last year cut the ribbon on just 65 new centres. It also runs counter to the general narrative that bosses want staff to make a permanent return to the office rather than putting them up on co-working spaces.

Last week, L’Oreal told staff they need to work from the office at least two Fridays a month to stem low attendance towards the end of the week. Meanwhile, Earnst & Young, and a number of City law firms, have started monitoring employees’ general office attendance by anonymously tracking gate data.

But Dixon declared this “back to the office” narrative was being exaggerated, and that staff remain sceptical about the need to commute, arguing that it will outweigh their employers’ desire for higher office numbers.

The openings subscribe to IWG’s new operating model, whereby the firm merely manages the office spaces on its books as opposed to leasing them from the landlords. The approach allows the firm to avoid the cost and risk of taking on leases, thus removing one of the major pitfalls of which co-working office providers like WeWork have fallen foul.

Dixon also acknowledged that the potential for a switch to a US listing — and the fact IWG would need to be a bigger company for the move to be successful — played into his decision-making process around the ambitious expansion.

The firm is also making other changes to its business as it girds its loins for a potential listing change, including changing its reporting currency to dollars and reporting its financials under US accounting standards.

IWG did not respond to a request for comment.