Decentralised business will become the norm
Time and again, history has shown that national or global traumas fundamentally change our society and economy and there’s little doubt that the pandemic of 2020 will be any different.
As we enter 2021, we’re still adapting to many changes in the way we work and stay in contact with each other. Some changes have been staggeringly swift, as we mentioned in our last blog, the speed at which we are taking up digital communications has been lightning quick and having an ‘omni-channel presence‘ has become vital for businesses both big and small.
Some changes will be slower, but no less dramatic for it. With city centre office building emptying during lockdowns, the ‘head office’ hub that has been at the core of many businesses have become dispersed and it seems unlikely pre-pandemic business structures will return at all. Businesses of all types are having to adapt to a ‘decentralised’ model, especially as many workers have expressed a strong desire to remain working largely from home. The challenge will now be to find ways around this fragmentation to keep businesses unified.
A shift away from the office
The working landscape has seen a huge amount of change. As well as businesses seeing their teams scattered, big towns and cities have also seen a major shift.
Here in the UK, we’ve witnessed a rise in the number of people moving out to more remote and less congested areas. Estate agent RightMove noted that the number of city residents looking to buy a home in a village rose by 126% in June and July 2020 when compared to the previous year. And back in June 2020, the careers advisory service Escape the City also reported that the number of job seekers looking for jobs outside of London had doubled compared to 2019.
As well as this, far fewer people are commuting daily – indeed, the UK Treasury has already been forced to provide a £1.6bn bailout to help keep Transport for London up and running. It remains to be seen whether once the vaccination programme is complete, hopefully later in 2021, we will pack up our laptops and head back to our desks in the cities. But we do know that many of us crave a ‘hybrid’ model of working, offering flexibility so that we can have the opportunity to create a blend of home and office work.
Flexi-working needs flexi-space
The future of big office spaces may be uncertain, but the need for flexible solutions will no doubt mean that workplaces will be adapted to suit the needs of this new ‘flexi- workforce’. Indeed many senior executives are already deciding how best to use their existing offices, with a view to keeping them for staff meetings and social get-togethers, rather than the traditional nine to five. Legal & General, for example, are hoping that staff might go into their head office for “a few days per week or fortnight” – on a more ad hoc working basis. Other companies may take the opportunity to set up satellite offices outside of the big cities, in the suburbs and smaller towns. Cost will certainly be a factor in deciding the best option, with many businesses looking for, or even being forced into finding cheaper rents and leases.
Flexible workspaces will be crucial in providing a service for those companies looking for versatility, be it shorter leases, cheaper rates, a serviced office complete with telephone answering services, or communal meeting spaces. WeWork for example, prides itself on being able to adjust its spaces to fit however many people are needed, including implementing the necessary social distancing measures, taking some of the stress out of setting up an office post-Covid. Many co-workspaces also offer a mixture of resources as well as traditional office space, ranging from breakout areas, communal kitchens, quiet spaces, gyms, event spaces and much more. Now, more than ever, we value comfortable spaces that take into account the wellbeing of workers – an important priority, currently being embraced by many businesses.
A decentralised future
So, as we look to the future, we’re sure to see a range of decentralised working models begin to take shape, adapting to the needs and wants of each individual company. There’s no doubt that even though many of us are keen to continue remote working in some capacity, we still crave a sense of camaraderie and to feel connected to work. The ability to provide a suitable space for face-to-face engagement will ensure that workforces feel involved and stay motivated, but on a mutually beneficial level that works for both staff and management.
Whether business leaders decide to adapt their office space or forge a new one, there’s no doubt that these hybrid working ‘hubs’ will mean that we’re sure to see a very different working landscape emerging, with a huge variety of solutions instead of ‘traditional’ office space with rows of desks and a meeting room. The most successful companies will be the ones who embrace the change – taking the opportunity to redesign their offices around their teams, creating the ultimate place for them to collaborate and perform to their best, in a safe and enjoyable place where they can be productive and achieve great things.