• In this regular column, The Executive Centre’s Regional Managing Director of Hong Kong, Macau & Taiwan, Nadia Zhu, talks to The Mag on why we need to be flexible in today’s changing world.
• At a personal level, flexibility has supported her growth in different roles in life.
• Flexibility also allows businesses to grow at their own pace, while increasing team happiness and productivity.
• As a goal-oriented mindset, flexibility helps us navigate through changes and obstacles to achieve our objectives.
What’s the one thing that motivates you? “The Power Series” offers thought leadership insights from industry experts at Taikoo Place on the “power” of their initiatives in relation to everyday life. In January, we speak to Nadia Zhu, Regional Managing Director of Hong Kong, Macau & Taiwan, The Executive Centre, about the power of flexibility.
We live in a dynamic world where change is the only constant. In order to succeed, be it at work or in other areas of life, you need flexibility – the ability to adapt to change.
My life has changed drastically over the last decade. I joined The Executive Centre (TEC) in Shanghai, my hometown, as business development manager in 2005. In 2011, I shifted to Hong Kong for a finance role at the company’s headquarters. Today I’m Regional Managing Director of our Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan businesses, managing 18 centres (including our latest one in Taikoo Place’s PCCW Tower in Hong Kong) and 100 teammates who serve thousands of members every day. On top of all these, I’m now a mother of two lovely young kids!
“People are looking for more choices in where, when and how they work, and employers hoping to attract and retain talent will need to adapt to such changing demands.”
Managing my ever-expanding responsibilities and objectives requires a lot of flexibility. While I was studying finance, my company allowed me to spend a total of eight months across several years to study on campus in the US. Later, TEC was also supportive of my relocation and role change when I was seeking new career challenges. Without these flexible arrangements, I wouldn’t have been able to explore my interest in finance and achieve what I have today. During those months as a new mum, it was even more important to have flexibility in my daily life – as I still did the same amount of work, but at my own pace, and in my own place, so I could take care of both my family’s needs and my work duties.
Find inspiration from your Taikoo Place neighbours –
Read more from The Mag’s POWER SERIES.
But flexibility doesn’t only support personal growth. Having flexibility in the lease term and office space helps companies grow in a more agile way. Since they’re not constrained into a space for a fixed period of time, team sizes can be expanded or contracted on demand. For start-ups, this helps take away some of the risk as they don’t have to spend any CapEx on building an office, and can enjoy shared resources such as communal lounges. Such financial benefits certainly make it easier for new projects to launch, but it’s also a peace of mind for these companies to know that they can simply go – and grow – with the flow.
The same benefits also apply to well-established organisations, such as international brands looking to test the local market. Facebook, for instance, was one of our clients in Hong Kong about 10 years ago. They started with just a team of three operating in a small office in our One Island East centre, and gradually took up more and more space as they grew to around 20 people. Later we moved them to a larger space on a different floor to accommodate their evolving plans; then eventually, they decided it was time to open their own office in One Taikoo Place. This shows how flexibility comes into play for companies like Facebook, especially during those initial years or uncertain times when long-term strategies are still developing.
As a leader, I see workplace flexibility as the way of the future. Ten years ago, “work” meant coming in to the office and being glued to your seat for eight hours, except for the occasional trips to the pantry or the meeting room. We now know that this isn’t the only productive way of working. People want more work space options, which can range from a quiet room where they can focus, to a vibrant area to socialise with others. We’ve also been seeing an increase in flexi hours and work-from-home arrangements due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In short, people are looking for more choices in where, when and how they work, and employers hoping to attract and retain talent will need to adapt to such changing demands. Aside from that, I think having a choice is empowering; it leads to happiness, and a happy workforce is a productive one.
Instilling flexibility in your team isn’t hard, if you’ve hired the right people.
These are people who fit in your company’s culture and mission, who you can trust to work independently and do well in their jobs. Not all flexible work arrangements are suitable for all companies, though. If you’re trying to give your team more freedom, start by making small changes and communicate your short-term and long-term objectives clearly. Take baby steps and see which areas work better for everyone. Later you can consider the hub-and-spoke model, which means having a core office while letting your colleagues work from different locations according to their needs.
Ultimately, flexibility is a goal-oriented mindset.
It translates to a willingness to adapt: rather than sticking to approaches that no longer work, you innovate and try different ways to achieve your goals, especially when changes and obstacles arise. The key is to keep your objectives in mind and know that there’s more than one path to reach them. In this new year, while we may still face different uncertainties, I think it serves to remember that we always have options; stay flexible and your goals will guide you towards where you want to be.
In times of uncertainty, how do we turn risks into opportunities? Read about the Power of Risk with Aon Hong Kong’s Paul Young.
Do you work at Taikoo Place and want to be featured in The Power Series? Get in touch.