Third want to downsize HQ

Firms ready to adopt ‘hub and spoke’ office model

Offices to let

Companies are assessing their office needs (pic: Terry Murden)

Business leaders are looking to adopt a ‘hub and spoke’ office model as more of their staff work from home.

New research reveals that more than a third (37%) of business leaders are considering downsizing their primary office space served by smaller satellites closer to where their employees live. 

The research by recruitment firm Robert Walters comes on the back of data from property agent RightMove showing 85% of employees expect continued flexibility to work from home post-Covid, and a 130% increase in homebuyer searches in the countryside.

Robert Walters’ report – The Future of Work in UK & Ireland – highlights the potential for many businesses to establish a ‘hub & spoke’ business model which addresses both the flexible needs of the employee, and the commercial & financial needs of the company.

The hub & spoke model refers to a more flexible workspace and working style allowing employees to work from either their city hub or a dedicated, strategic spoke location – including more regional workspaces.

The ‘hub’ or HQ remains in a city centre – albeit smaller – but continues to act as the ‘face’ of the brand where client and larger team meetings can be held. ‘Spokes’ are much smaller and versatile offices based closer to where employees live – and often designed in a co-working format to accommodate a variety of different teams.

Adopting the hub & spoke work model allows companies to downsize their city centre office – lowering overheads, rent, expenses, and business rates – whilst maintaining brand image. 

In the past two years there have been more co-work spaces on the market – offering everything from an entire floor to renting by the desk.  

These fully-serviced offices allow businesses to sign-up to short-term licence agreements, with fewer T&C’s; allowing spoke offices to be opened rapidly and at much lower risk. 

If adopted widely, the shift away from large offices is likely to increase calls for greater protection for employees amid concerns already raised over issues such as IT security, health and safety, and working hours.

Sceptics may see the shift as a means for companies to simply cut costs and claw back some of the losses in revenue during the lockdown.

However, with so many employees ready to embrace more flexibility the shift appears to be already in process.

Sam Walters, director of Robert Walters London, says: “It’s inevitable that Covid has forced companies to rethink their space and logistical needs, and the hub & spoke model is evolving from what it was even a year ago – now concentrating on pairing employee preference for remote work with flexible physical workplaces that allow them to connect with their colleagues.

“With more and more companies becoming comfortable with their employees working from home, it will become the norm for a HQ to only have around 30% of employees working from there on a day-to-day basis.

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“However our research highlights how important it is to maintain workplace culture in order to bring the best out of a workforce.

“Spokes or regional offices will work in that they aim to address all of the employees concerns around flexibility, commute time, cost of travel, and work-life balance, whilst still allowing companies to train, motivate & monitor employees productivity on-site.”

According to a Robert Walters survey, 35% of professionals claimed that their productivity increased when working from home – despite this 60% of employers have concerns over productivity if remote working is to continue long-term.

Spoke offices meet in the middle of a company and employee’s needs, says Mr Walters. Employees save money and time on their commute. In return, a better work-life balance for them could mean higher productivity and output for the business.

A spoke model also increases the company’s footprint, customer and client reach and provides an opportunity to hire from a wider talent pool.

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