Suburban flexspace is key to success for the 15-Minute City concept, which promises shorter commutes and a better work-life balance
Covid-19 is likely to have many long-lasting effects, but one of the most positive will be its impact on the world of work. The pandemic has accelerated the trend for flexible working, highlighting clear benefits for businesses and the people who work for them.
Motorway delays, eye-watering train fares and skin-of-the-teeth nursery pick-ups could become things of the past as companies shift to hybrid ways of working, post-pandemic. Approaches such as the hub-and-spoke model change up the function of corporate HQs, which become spaces for connection and collaboration (‘hubs’), rather than bases from which people are expected to work every day. When they’re not required for face-to-face meetings, employees can base themselves at satellite locations (‘spokes’), such as local flexible workspaces.
Spaces locations, as part of the IWG stable, have been opened up to more than a million new customers in the first half of 2021 alone through deals with global firms such as NTT and Standard Chartered bank – who have chosen to adopt the hub-and-spoke model permanently.
Moves such as these – and the flexspaces that make them possible – mean the concept of the 15-Minute City might soon become a reality.
What is a 15-Minute City?
The 15-Minute City theory was devised by Professor Carlos Moreno of the Sorbonne. Put simply, a 15-Minute City is a place where everything a resident needs – from work and education to healthcare and cafés – can be reached within a quarter of an hour on foot or by bike.
One of the earliest champions of Moreno’s concept was Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris. In her successful 2020 election campaign, she adopted the 15-Minute City as a core policy. Moreno’s vision is that, thanks to a more localised life, the people of Paris will enjoy better work-life balance, connect more deeply with their communities and help to cut carbon emissions.
Bringing the concept to life
In the USA, cities such as Portland, Oregon, and Austin, Texas, are both embracing the 15-Minute City lifestyle. Large firms are setting up workspaces in suburban locations instead of city centres, enabling people to work closer to where they live.
Copenhagen, Berlin, Madrid and Milan are also thought of as ‘hotspots’ for the realisation of the 15-Minute City, as is Melbourne in Australia.
In the UK, Brighton is a great example of the concept’s success. Popular residential areas of the seaside city are all within a short walk or cycle ride of the city’s main shopping areas, amenities and entertainment venues, as well as the beach and the South Downs National Park.
In 2020, in response to the Covid-19 crisis, Brighton & Hove City Council also announced radical changes to its streets. The aim, in line with the 15-Minute City ideal, is to improve walkability.
Brighton already boasts Spaces Trafalgar Place, just moments away from the train station and within easy reach of cafés, restaurants and the city’s famous Lanes. It’s easily accessible on foot or by bike from nearby homes.
Meanwhile, Ipswich Borough Council has recently introduced plans to become the UK’s first ‘15-minute town’. Proposals for its redevelopment include new green spaces, schools, offices and recreation facilities. Amenities will be situated within a 15-minute walk of residences, helping to establish a multifunctional community that’s no longer solely built around retail.
Suburban office solutions
Increasingly, businesses are recognising the need to have bases where workers – and potential hires – already are. The demand for flexible workspaces in suburban locations is therefore on the rise. Demand for IWG’s flexible workspaces in suburban and rural areas of the UK 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%. Around the world, two-thirds of IWG’s 3,500 locations are already in suburbs and smaller towns, with more set to open in these areas as demand for neighbourhood flexspace increases.
With locations throughout the world, Spaces serves large cities as well as smaller towns – so it is ideally placed to help make the 15-Minute City a reality.
Mark Dixon, IWG CEO, says: “People have been proven in recent months to be just as effective and productive away from company HQs – not just at home, but also in offices ‘around the corner’. Just when local cities and towns seemed to be dying, Covid-19 may have come along and saved them. People want to work close to where they live. It’s going to stick.”
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