Centralised HQs will soon be a thing of the past – & that’s good for business

There’s no denying that remote working has changed the face of day-to-day business, we seek to label these, such as the gig economy certainly do drive this change.

Organisations big and small are increasingly enabling staff to work from different locations, whether that’s from home, from a separate small office external to the company’s main offices, or from shared workspaces.

Gone are the days when all employees are housed under a single roof with a big logo over the entrance. Thanks to the cloud, I too work from many locations around the world but maintain the connectivity to business. With systems such a Zoom.us I can speak to my team and hold conferences with many clients without being located in our HQ.

Some companies, particularly older, more established organisations, may balk at these evolving work habits. Business leaders have historically taken a degree of reassurance from the knowledge that all their employees are within arm’s reach, where they’re easy to motivate (and even easier to monitor). I understand the hesitation, even if I don’t agree with it. To me, it’s clear that the era of centralised headquarters is over – and that’s fantastic news for business.

First and foremost, it’s crucial to understand that market pressures have forced the rise in remote working. Ever-spiralling commercial property rents and the thought of locking into a long lease with lack of business rate reform mean that a sprawling office building has gone from the mark of a company on the rise to a costly albatross around the neck if you are fast pace and scaling fast, sucking increasingly heavy costs from the balance sheet.

We started seeing an SME exodus from Central London as far back as 2012, but today around the country, big and small businesses are weighing the cost of remaining in a central urban location or moving out to the more affordable city fringes.

It’s often unfeasible for companies to uproot their entire staff, so we’re currently seeing a more gradual transition, with selected employees or teams trailblazing into new offices or shared workspaces, with others either following later or remain behind permanently.

And it’s not just business leaders mulling a location change. Recent research from Savills has found that the number of people moving out of London has risen 80 per cent in 5 years due to living costs.

We need to scream louder as you can’t argue with the data, London is losing to other cities taking an entrepreneurial stance on attracting talented companies.

Staff are eager to move to areas that guarantee a better quality of life and more affordable housing – and businesses are eager to retain skilled employees at a time when access to talent has never been a more pressing concern.

Allowing staff to work from home has become a quick and easy solution, but it’s also been a catalyst that causes many businesses to rethink their talent acquisition strategy.

At Central Working, we’ve seen an increasing number of businesses based in Southern England launch secondary programming teams in our more northern workspaces, specifically to target tech talent.

The high demand for skilled digital candidates, coupled with higher-than-average London salaries, mean that companies in the capital are struggling to offer the remuneration packages of the Googles and Facebooks.

Instead, many companies are looking to hubs such as Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham, where communities of skilled programmers, coders and developers already exist, and setting up separate offices to appeal to these candidates directly.

Sales and marketing teams may still be based in the client-rich capital, but hubs around the UK are doing an increasing amount of the heavy lifting when it comes to research and development. And this external investment is further fuelling the growth of regional hubs across the country. It also great to hear more stories coming from the regions!

Protecting both balance sheet and staff roster should be enough to convince business leaders that the demise of centralised HQs is nothing to mourn. But there’s real opportunity here, not just reactive safeguarding.

Splitting up departments and having them mix with new organisations, either in shared workspaces or mixed offices, encourages and the intake of fresh ideas. It’s also a catalyst for that driver of business success, collaboration.

A company’s success often depends on the valuable connections that staff make, whether you’re looking for clients or suppliers. It is also the clarity they gain from being able to work in more fluid environment rather than a old office environment. If all your employees are shackled to a desk in one location, they’ll have to find time to get out into the world and make these connections.

There’s a reason behind the huge spike in corporate accelerator programmes in recent years – big business has recognised that there’s money to be made by working alongside a range of companies, small or large. We also need to support intra-entrepreneurs in companies to unlock their entrepreneurial qualities.

Central headquarters will always have a place in the business world, but it’s fair to say that business will only become more flexible in the future.

That’s not to say you should instantly despatch your employees to different corners of the country – but it’s worth bearing in mind that the companies that offer adaptable, responsive working conditions now will be among those best placed to tap talent and collaborative opportunities in the future.

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Grant Powell

About Grant Powell

Grant Powell, CEO of Central Working the office workspace company with sites in London, Manchester & Cambridge in the UK and New York, Cape Town, Tel Aviv and Mumbai.