With commuting to cities no longer a daily necessity, previously sleepy towns and suburbs are becoming vibrant centres for both living and working.
Do you remember life before the pandemic when every morning and evening would be spent in a rush-hour crush on trains, roads and buses leading into city centres? Working from home every day was a novelty during lockdown and made many people realise that remote working ‘works’.
However, as more businesses make a permanent shift to a ‘hybrid’ model – where professionals divide their week between working from home, a coworking space and in some cases a company HQ – workforces are becoming ‘distributed’, instead of concentrated in urban areas.
Which is why local flexspaces are opening up closer to where people live – meaning long daily commutes are becoming a thing of the past and local high streets in towns and villages are now becoming lively places to be during the week, with people spending money on their doorstep instead of further afield.
Earlier this year, Spaces parent company IWG undertook a global research project in partnership with Arup to identify the impact of hybrid working on rural and suburban communities in the UK, US and Germany. The subsequent findings highlighted the way in which more residential areas outside of urban centres are starting to offer locals everything they need for their personal and professional life – from trendy coffee shops to inviting coworking spaces.
This trend indicates a distinct shift towards better work-life balance for professionals – whether they are a freelancing parent, an multi-tasking entrepreneur or a part-time contractor. Pre-pandemic, it was much harder to juggle childcare, for example, when working in a city centre and having to factor in a one-hour commute each way. Having access to schools that are just a short walk from workplaces is so much better for families – and there is no time wasted on travel that could have been spent being productive.
Kings of convenience
Mark Dixon, Founder and CEO of IWG, says he wants to see an office in every town and village, and anticipates a rapid shift to new locations as the company meets the growing demand. In fact, it’s already happening – IWG says it has seen enquiries for rural and suburban coworking sites across the country grow “dramatically” in 2021, with interest now “above pre-pandemic levels”.
Around the world, IWG has opened numerous locations outside cities to meet the growing demand for hybrid work, which Spaces members can access. Dixon says: “Over the last 18 months we’ve seen businesses not only recognise the benefits hybrid working has on their productivity and their bottom line, but its growing importance to local communities, too.”
He concludes: “We are seeing previously dormitory towns and villages come back to life as workers split their time between home, a local workspace and a corporate HQ. With hundreds more rural and suburban flexible working locations expected to open in the coming years, we expect a wide range of vibrant local communities to develop with thriving businesses at their heart.”
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