The way we think about the office is changing.
Now that companies around the world have moved towards a distributed workforce, with some team members logging in remotely, many are ditching the traditional office. Instead, they’re adopting a hub and spoke business model — a centralized downtown headquarters with strategically located regional satellite offices (or “spokes”). But is that model right for your business?
The first step is to make an assessment. Ask yourself: Where does your workforce live? What type of office experience best serves your employees? What resources and tools are available? The answers to those questions will help inform what kind of approach is a good fit.
Here are a few signs that a hub and spoke business model may be right for your company.
You want to bring the office to your employees.
“People don’t like commuting,” says Marshall O’Moore, Head of Agile Advisory at real-estate services firm CBRE. “In fact, numerous studies find that people systematically underestimate how much they hate commuting, and they therefore choose to live so far away that they end up lowering their aggregate life satisfaction.”
Especially after months of having no commute time at all, there’s little interest in spending hours trekking to and from the office each day, even though the majority of workers want to return to the office, according to CBRE’s recent Workforce Sentiment Survey.
But with a hub and spoke business model, you can place distributed offices where your talent pool resides. Shortening your employees’ commute also means giving them a better work-life balance. Plus, your company can dip into a broader talent base and help stimulate regional economies.
You see an opportunity to reduce real estate costs.
As many companies move away from the traditional nine-to-five, they don’t need as much physical space on a regular basis. In that case, a hub and spoke business model can free companies from being locked into long-term leases in expensive cities. With lower rents in suburbs of metropolitan areas or secondary cities, companies can reduce real estate costs, while employees also benefit from the lower cost of living.
An important note, however: “Although financial responsibility is absolutely one factor, it’s typically not the only factor at play in real-estate decision-making,” says Rick Ybarra, Principal at Avison Young Consulting Services. He advises looking at other considerations around the hub and spoke strategy, such as enabling portfolio flexibility; reducing the total cost of occupancy; seeking real estate capital management; and reducing portfolio carbon footprint. Together, Ybarra notes that they can lead to “real estate solutions that ultimately help companies build profitable strategies for business while giving them an edge in the war for talent.”
You want a collaborative space, but also to keep things flexible.
The office isn’t disappearing — it’s just changing. As O’Moore puts it, people want to continue coming in because they “enjoy the actual space and its amenities. Or they can’t work effectively in other surroundings, like their home.”
Many managers also believe that the best way to brainstorm ideas and plan projects is face-to-face, so the office can be a productive place for meetings, events, and conferences. A hub and spoke model provides numerous locations for employees to meet, but also allows your company more ability to scale up or down according to your business needs, especially if you’re using flexible office space.
You put in the effort to create a corporate culture.
“In the longer term, companies [adopting] spoke offices should do so as part of a holistic real estate approach that includes virtual work, spoke offices, and hubs,” says O’Moore. When your employees are spread out, it’s critical that you find ways to bring them together in order to establish a consistent company culture. This multifaceted model better allows for more cross-team collaboration. O’Moore also suggests that companies create opportunities for employees to have virtual, unstructured team work. That way, they can get to know colleagues based in other regions.
“Beyond all physical gatherings, technology is critical in this model,” adds Ybarra, who emphasizes the importance of providing employees with the tools and connectivity they need to elevate their experience at work. “State-of-the-art A/V technology, augmented or virtual reality tools, digital collaboration tools that connect remote employees, and company-provided hardware for maximum interface ease can all keep employees feeling empowered and ready for collaboration.”