The future is near: why businesses are opening ‘satellite offices’ in small towns and suburbs near you
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As hybrid working takes off, professionals will no longer need to commute to city-centre offices on a daily basis, meaning companies can adopt local flexspaces near to where employees live.
Why work in a crowded, polluted city if you don’t need to? Up until recently, this wasn’t possible for most professionals as companies usually only had offices in city centres, and required employees to attend every day. However, now that the pandemic has turbocharged the adoption of remote working for the long term, there is a whole raft of opportunities for businesses – and communities – to do things differently.
Hybrid working – where people base themselves at a combination of the home, a local flexspace and occasionally at corporate HQ – is the ideal solution as it gives individuals flexibility, and companies the chance to lower their overheads (and boost profit) when it comes to office leases. It also gives regional towns and villages the opportunity to invest in better amenities for locals – be it the provision of attractive coffee shops, affordable daycare centres or coworking spaces.
Over the coming years, hybrid working will mean suburban locations that previously functioned as commuter territory, will become ‘model villages’ with everything a remote working professional could need. Exploring this further, a recent study by IWG and Arup indicated that more than 75,600 full-time white-collar workers in the UK could benefit from working locally in new suburban IWG flexible office spaces by 2030, in addition to 198,000 in the USA, and 38,600 in Germany. What’s more, this could ultimately mean the historic ‘brain drain’ from the countryside to cities could, in fact, be reversed.
“Over the last 18 months we’ve seen businesses recognise not only the benefits hybrid working has on their productivity and their bottom line but, as this report demonstrates, its growing importance to local communities, too,” says Mark Dixon, founder and CEO of IWG. “We are seeing previously dormant towns and villages come back to life. With hundreds more rural and suburban flexible working locations expected to open in the coming years, we expect a wide range of vibrant local communities to develop with thriving businesses at their heart.”
In the UK alone, hybrid working could mean towns, villages and even rural locations across the country will benefit from an extra £327m per year, due to the anticipated expansion of flexible office and coworking spaces in these areas, with an associated increase in productivity to be worth more than £150m extra to the country’s economy.
Meanwhile, in the USA, IWG and Arup estimate that almost 200,000 white-collar workers could potentially move out of cities over the coming years, creating up to $1.3bn in spending in suburban and rural locations. In Germany, IWG expects up to 38,600 full-time workers to relocate from urban centres.
With many companies now looking to open networks of local offices, Regus flexible workspace offers an ideal solution as it means businesses can avoid costly real estate rentals and outfitting, while investing in the mental wellbeing of employees.
Happily, this aligns with the vision of la ville du quart d’heure (the 15-Minute City), a concept developed by Professor Carlos Moreno at the Sorbonne in Paris, who suggests that the key to a happy – and more environmentally friendly – life is efficiency. He says that everything we need for daily living – from parks and restaurants to schools and workspaces – should be easily accessible without the use of polluting transport.
In a TED Talk, Moreno says: “For too long, those of us who live in cities have accepted the unacceptable. We accept that in cities our sense of time is warped because we have to waste so much of it just adapting to the absurd organisation and long distances. People should be able to access work, housing, food, health, education, culture and leisure easily and within close proximity of their homes.”
While working from home was a good stop-gap during the Covid crisis, there is no doubt that the key to thriving businesses will be hybrid working, which creates a positive ripple effect from a grassroots starting point. By using shared local flexspace that is both convenient and cost-effective, it balances the books as well as people’s mindsets.