Published on 11 Oct 2022

Businesses are Becoming Less Reliant on Cities: What Does This Mean For The Future Of Work?


As US towns pay tech workers to leave the world’s most famous work hub, Silicon Valley, the appetite for hybrid work is increasing across Europe and Asia, too. What does this mean for the office and work patterns?

As the demand for hybrid working grows around the world, more and more employees are taking advantage of not being tied to one office and are leaving big cities. Now, a growing number of US towns are both fuelling and cashing in on the trend by offering incentive schemes that pay tech workers to relocate out of Silicon Valley and work across other locations. With the number of these schemes nearly tripling from 24 in October 2021 to 71 now, appetite in the US is clear – and IWG and Arup have forecasted that almost 200,000 white-collar workers could potentially move out of cities over the coming years.

But the trend is global, with one study showing that “53% of workers want to maintain a schedule where more than half of their time is spent working remotely after the pandemic”. Japan scored highest, with 64% of workers in that country now wanting to work away from their company HQ. Meanwhile, in western Europe, job ads mentioning remote work more than doubled in a 12-month period during the pandemic, and in Germany, IWG predicts that up to 38,600 full-time workers will relocate out of urban centres.

So what’s behind the move out of cities, and how should enterprises capitalise on it?

Why the exodus?

Repeated references to the pandemic in relation to this exodus from cities are no coincidence. The profound shift in working patterns brought about by successive lockdowns left many workers reevaluating their professional lives, having discovered the better quality of life to be enjoyed when commuting every day is no longer necessary. Not only that, hybrid working enables them to move out of expensive city centres and enjoy a higher standard of living in more affordable suburban and rural areas.

But it’s not just the workers who benefit. The environmental advantages of cutting down commuting are obvious, too, while employers see the potential to save on overheads by not relying solely on traditional city centre office space. Lockdowns proved that technology is already at a stage at which it’s capable of supporting remote work and the benefits it brings.

Yet as the pandemic has subsided, the happy medium, for many businesses, has been found somewhere in the middle. Fully remote working was a necessity during lockdowns, but it hasn’t always proved ideal when it comes to engendering team spirit and shared philosophy. Hybrid working offers the best of both worlds, enabling employees to focus on certain kinds of work at home, free from distractions such as meetings, while regularly coming together with colleagues to collaborate and brainstorm at the main office and local flexspaces.

Hub and spoke

The ideal hybrid working solution may exist in the form of the hub and spoke model, where a company has a main HQ along with smaller satellite offices located close to residential areas, placing them within easy reach of employees’ homes. This model is already being used by some of the world’s biggest companies, including Amazon, Google, Virgin Money and Fujitsu, and it’s no wonder: it’s been shown to have numerous benefits for businesses, employees and environment alike. 

For businesses, the hub and spoke model provides workplace flexibility and mobility, cutting down on steep inner city real estate costs, putting them in a better position to scale and giving them access to a much wider talent pool. For employees, it’s been found to improve health and wellbeing, offering a better work-life balance thanks to less time spent commuting and more time spent at home with their families.

Of course, hybrid working doesn’t have to mean deserting cities or towns for those who enjoy a more urban lifestyle. The idea of the 15-Minute City represents the hub and spoke model at its finest, supporting local living and suburban revitalisation while allowing the city or town centre to retain its importance. The idea is that of a ‘model village’ that caters for all needs within a 15-minute radius of a person’s home, including flexible professional workspaces for the times when being at central HQ isn’t necessary.

With the hub and spoke model providing so many advantages to businesses and their employees alike, this ultimate form of hybrid working is here to stay. Everywhere now has the potential to have a thriving business scene – not just cities.

Discover how IWG can help your company adapt to employee trends with a hybrid model. We can advise on your workplace strategy and offer access to 3,500 flexible workspaces worldwide.