The pandemic and the rise in homeworking has caused many companies to re-evaluate the role of expensive city centre offices. Amidst the challenge of adapting to the ‘new normal’, one idea that is gaining in popularity among big businesses is the so-called ‘hub-and-spoke’ model, where companies keep their headquarters but operate from multiple regional offices or coworking spaces, allowing employees to find a balance between home working and office working.
Five big names are already embracing this model, and successfully so:
In August 2020, retail giant Amazon announced that it was expanding its physical offices in six ‘tech hubs’ in cities around the US and adding 3,500 jobs. Company officials said they would invest more than US$1.4bn in the new offices in Detroit, Dallas, Denver, New York, Phoenix and San Diego.
Amazon has already found success with the hub-and-spoke model, having previously opened offices in 17 North American cities strategically located to tap into the areas’ specific expertise and talent from universities, tech industries and business centres.
For some time, banks have seen the number of customers using their local branches dwindle, as they favour online services instead. When the pandemic hit, and the big city centre office looked increasingly redundant, Virgin Money saw an opportunity to transform these struggling outlets into workspaces.
In Britain, the bank is identifying branches that local office staff can work in, rather than travelling into city centres. These workspaces will provide a lifeline to staff for whom homeworking has proved challenging, and who wish to return to the office once it is safe to do so.
Even before the pandemic made homeworking commonplace, Automattic’s workforce was used to working remotely. The company behind WordPress owned offices around the world for staff to cowork in if they wished, but demand was so low that every single one of its staff now works remotely.
Abandoning the central office means they have been able to hire staff from multiple locations, who work from home or from commercial coworking spaces of their choice near where they live. The company gives employees a monthly allowance to cover the costs of the latter.
IT giant Fujitsu is transforming the way its 80,000 employees work at its offices in Japan. While it will keep its Tokyo headquarters, it plans to radically reduce its office footprint by 50% and increase flexible working options for staff.
The company is giving employees the freedom to decide where they work, whether that’s from home, a hub or satellite offices nearer to where they live.
Fujitsu believes that the increased autonomy offered to its workers will help to improve the performance of teams and boost productivity.
Google’s main office complex in California’s Silicon Valley, the Googleplex, is still very much the corporation’s headquarters. But Covid-19 has meant that the internet firm is looking to the future and exploring different ways of working.
Although the company plans to keep its employees at home until at least summer 2021, Google CEO Sundar Pichai says the company is planning on adding new, smaller hub offices, which will give employees more flexibility around where they live. He talks about a ‘hybrid-flexible work’ model that might allow employees to balance home working with time in the office.