The issue of how to get workers, reliant on mass transit, back into city workplaces is yet to be resolved. Could suburban offices be part of the answer?
With public transport unable to run at 100% capacity and commuters reluctant to accept the previously ubiquitous sardine like conditions, city center offices remain under-utilised. One solution is to cut the commute down by bringing the offices closer to where people live, which is reportedly in line with what house buyers are now looking for.
The Hub and Spoke model, with a central HQ and dispersed satellite offices, has been around for some time, but Covid's impact on our appetite for commuting has brought it back into the spotlight. The big players in co-working have traditionally avoided suburbs, but with workers being less willing to travel on cramped public transport, this could change.
One of the detractions of the model has been that very few businesses have sufficient numbers of staff, in concentrated locations, to justify a dedicated satellite office. Co-working could be the natural solution to this, with companies taking what space they need, for as long as they need it. A half-way house between working from home and commuting into the city center.
Could a local co-working space be the best of both worlds? A professional yet buzzy office environment in which to collaborate, but without the commute. Or is it a false compromise? Are people willing to commute even that far and if they will, why not all the way? Public transport often favours movement to the center, so while satellite offices may be closer in distance, the time saving may be negligible.
There are many theories on what the future of offices will look like, but with news that House of Fraser at Westfield may be converted into a co-working space, it appears some are willing to bet on suburban co-working.
“My view is that some of the suburban towns with train stations are going to become thriving ‘domestic’ office markets” Matt Watts, CCO, Labs