The trends shaping work in 2022: workforce dispersion

Young disable man in casualwear working in the net while sitting in front of laptop in office

Why hybrid working will help businesses cast the net wider in the search for talent, supporting greater diversity and inclusion.

Hybrid working is opening up – quite literally – a new world of opportunity.

Now that full-time employees are not tied to a central corporate HQ on a daily basis, start-ups, entrepreneurs and SMEs are free to cast their net far wider for potential new hires.

As Mark Dixon, Founder and CEO of Spaces’ parent company IWG, puts it: “Companies are benefiting from an increased ability to attract the best talent, no matter where they are located.”

For Gen Zs and millennials, this new trend of ‘workforce dispersion’ opens up even greater possibilities. Freed from the necessity to commute long distances or to move to a city to perform their role in a central office, they have far greater choice of where they can live and who they work for.

For those previously bound to living in city centres, it means they now have the option to move to rural or coastal areas, where they can enjoy a better work/life balance and an improved standard of living: house prices are often cheaper outside of big cities.

Naturally, there will still be demand for company HQs as places for people to come together to collaborate, but the shackles are off. For example, a company in California can hire someone living in London to do a job that previously would have required them to relocate to San Francisco. In the hybrid world, they can simply check in via Zoom from a coworking site near their home and visit the head office two or three times a year.

The hub-and-spoke model is also key in this flight from the city. By having a network of suburban flexspace ‘spokes’ that act as convenient ‘satellites’ of a city centre HQ (the ‘hub’), companies can offer employees access to workspace closer to where they live, driving down the need to commute.

The dispersion dividend

Workforce dispersion also helps to build diversity and inclusion among businesses, while having the potential to improve social mobility. New hires can come from underrepresented communities, for whom the cost of living in and commuting to the city would have previously put many jobs out of reach.

“Current and future employees can come from and live in completely different situations every day,” says Tamas Varkonyi, People and Operations Manager at equity management platform Ledgy. “By not restricting the location of work to expensive cities, you open up to people from less privileged backgrounds.”

With hybrid working enabling recruitment from a national or even globa) pool of talent in the years ahead, companies will be able to do more to build teams with deep cultural and experiential diversity. They will also be able to offer opportunities to those suffering from physical or mental disabilities, for whom commuting poses a significant barrier.

Areas outside of big cities will also benefit from this newly dispersed workforce. According to a recent study by IWG and Arup, rural and suburban areas in the UK could receive an injection of £327m a year in spending thanks to the roll-out of flexible office and coworking spaces for hybrid workers. The study also estimates that more than 4,000 new jobs could be created for people to run them.

Workforce dispersion is one of ten trends identified in IWG’s white paper, The Future of Work: a trends forecast for 2022.

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