The rise of hybrid working and the concept of the 15-Minute City are already making a difference around the world, with locations like these highlighting the benefits. For franchise partners, the opportunities are striking.
Hybrid working has been on the rise for years, but the Covid-19 crisis has catalysed the trend, making it a fixture of more working lives than ever before. Long periods of restrictions opened people’s eyes to the benefits of remote working and, as offices cautiously reopen around the world, many businesses are opting to make a hybrid approach permanent.
Standard Chartered bank and NTT have signed groundbreaking deals with IWG in the first half of 2021. These and other enterprise partnerships have added more than a million new users to IWG’s flexspaces around the world so far this year. Elsewhere, the hub-and-spoke model has been embraced by a wide variety of global firms, including Google and HSBC.
For investors, then, flexspace represents an exciting opportunity – and franchise partners across the world are already recognising its potential. IWG has seen a 350% increase in new locations signed up by franchise partners in the first half of 2021, compared with the same period last year. A total of 20 new franchise partners have joined IWG so far this year, with plans for more than 110 new centres.
“Multiple studies have shown that businesses of all sizes are planning for a hybrid future,” says IWG Founder and CEO Mark Dixon. “With the signing of a growing number of franchise partners, we anticipate a greater number of openings in the second half of the year.”
Research by IWG among 501 business leaders with an interest in franchising found that 56% were considering becoming a flexspace franchisee – the highest figure for any kind of opportunity, outstripping traditional choices such as coffee shops and gyms.
The 15-Minute City
James Wright, co-founder of WG1 Offices Limited, decided to unlock the advantages of investing in flexible workspace when he signed a cluster franchise agreement with IWG to open five new centres over the next four years. “If big deals are coming through [from businesses embracing hybrid working], where do we see young professionals from Standard Chartered or the equivalent corporate clients living?” Wright asks. WG1’s flexible workspaces will be in northeast areas of London, away from the City but close to homes and other amenities.
Franchise partnerships of this kind could help pave the way for the arrival of the ‘15-Minute City’ – neighbourhoods where everything a resident needs to live, work and socialise can be reached within a quarter of an hour on foot or by bike.
Conceived by Professor Carlos Moreno of the Sorbonne, it’s an ideal that is now informing public policy and planning around the world. Here, we look at three locations where it’s already having an impact.
Portland, Oregon, USA
Portland, Oregon, has a city plan that promotes people-centred neighbourhoods. The objective is that by 2030, 90% of Portland residents will be able to walk or take a short cycle ride to meet all their basic needs. Key to the plan’s success will be the expansion of pavements, street connectivity and general pedestrian access.
Portland already has the highest rate of commuting by bike of any US city, and was recently ranked ninth out of 150 cities in US News & World Report’s annual list of the best places to live in the United States.
Susan Anderson, director of Portland’s Bureau of Planning & Sustainability, says: “What people want are jobs and prosperity, affordable housing, a healthy environment and a city that connects neighbourhoods.”
Over the last 10 years, the Australian city of Melbourne has prioritised the creation of ‘accessible, safe and attractive local areas’ where people can meet everyday needs by taking a short walk, cycle ride or trip on public transport.
The creation of 'activity centres' in suburban areas such as Ringwood, Broadmeadows and Dandenong has been key to the plan. These hubs host amenities such as health centres, shops, spaces to work from and entertainment venues.
Walkability is also a focus, exemplified by the development of Bourke Street, the pedestrianised shopping district in the heart of the city. Meanwhile, Melbourne boasts 670km of bike paths, spread throughout the city. The city’s AUS$11bn Metro underground railway project, due to open in 2025, will further improve accessibility, adding stations and easing traffic bottlenecks.
Already, Melbourne’s skyline includes the kind of mixed-use property that the new, hybrid world of work demands. As far back as the 1990s, the Postcode 3000 campaign saw the development of high-rise, city centre apartments alongside office spaces. Melbourne also offers 23 different IWG flexible workspaces, including Regus 385 Bourke Street and Spaces Rialto.
Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, made the 15-Minute City a central plank of her successful 2020 re-election campaign. She promised to create “a city of proximities”, making more room for pedestrians and developing new cycle routes.
Such improvements will further fuel the city’s flexspace boom and demand for shared offices in Paris is already nearly twice the global average.
The regeneration of the former Minimes barracks shows how neighbourhoods are being transformed into people-centred hubs. Its former parking lot has become a public garden, surrounding buildings have been converted to 70 public housing apartments and the complex has been revamped to include childcare facilities, workshops and a clinic.
IWG already has more than 65 flexible workspaces in Paris and its surrounding areas. These include Spaces Bonne Nouvelle and Signature Place Vendôme. Regus centres are situated throughout the city, as well as in suburban areas such as Fontenay-sous-Bois. In central Versailles, Stop & Work Versailles Chantier occupies a prime position.
Location, location, location
While cities such as these already have thriving flexspace markets, investors would be wise to consider suburban and rural locations, too.
Demand for IWG’s flexible workspaces in suburban and rural areas grew by 32% and 20% during the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same period pre-pandemic. Conversely, demand in city centre areas was down 11%.
The reinvigoration of local communities is central to the 15-Minute City concept, and set to be a lasting legacy of the pandemic. In the future, communities will cater to our every need within a quarter of an hour of where we live – and the final piece of the jigsaw will be provided by flexible workspace solutions that offer all the benefits of a centralised office close to home.
“Just when local cities and towns seemed to be dying,” says Dixon, “Covid-19 may have come along and saved them. People want to work close to where they live. It’s going to stick.”