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Why Google, Virgin & Fujitsu Are Adopting the Office Hub & Spoke Model

11th Jun 2021
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Working from home is something most businesses have had to adapt to during the pandemic. Some have taken to the new way of working like a duck to water. Some… not so much.

With the well-documented cons that working from home can bring (isolation, poor collaboration and makeshift desk setups), versus the obvious pro’s (added flexibility, less commute stress and a better work-life balance), working from home vs working from a central office is a debate which rages on in organisations up and down the country. 

Wouldn’t it be good if there was a happy medium between the two?

Some sort of hybrid model…

The office hub and spoke business model: What it is, where it came from & how it works

The pandemic has shown the world that it’s no longer necessary for people to congregate in physical offices to make quick decisions, work together and monitor progress. With advancing cloud technology and remote working infrastructures in place, there’s no real need to keep employees under the same roof anymore.

But, with the reported downsides that remote working can bring, such as isolation and a lack of productivity, there needs to be some sort of compromise between the two.

This is where the office hub and spoke model comes in.

The office hub and spoke model was first inspired by the airport industry. The ‘hub’ is a central airport that planes fly in and out of, and the ‘spokes’ are the routes that these planes take out of those central airport hubs.

Following a similar vein, the office hub and spoke model is where a business has one central ‘hub’, or headquarters, with offices spread out in different parts of the country, like spokes. 

The purpose of having a central office hub with geographically dispersed office spokes is that it gives employees access to the benefits of office working, but with the added flexibility of being closer to home.

And, with 47% of UK businesses now considering how their employees could work closer to home and 21% of businesses looking at setting up offices closer to where people live, the hub and spoke model seems like a win-win.

But is it? Or is it just another fad like office cubicles were in the 80’s? 

Why adopt the office hub and spoke model?

With rising rent, limited space in city centres and flexibility being the number one employee requirement before choosing whether to join a company or not, companies need to reassess the way they use their office space.

5 advantages of adopting the office hub and spoke model

The benefits of having an office hub and spoke set-up include:

Office hub and spoke advantage #1: Added flexibility

The arrangement of spoke offices across different locations gives employees a significant level of flexibility.”WorkThere

Having offices spread out in different locations gives employees the chance to work closer to home and spend less time commuting. This gives them a better work-life balance which results in a happier workforce.

Office hub and spoke advantage #2: Good for local economies 

Having offices in different locations keeps people out of the big, thriving cities and in the small, struggling towns and communities. This creates more jobs for local people, gives people who live outside of the city the chance to work for larger firms and it gives smaller towns and communities a much-needed economy boost. 

Office hub and spoke advantage #3: Better for the environment

If you were to commute 10 miles, five days a week for a year, you’d produce around 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide emissions! So, if people can work closer to home, the pressure the daily commute puts on the environment will reduce, significantly.

Office hub and spoke advantage #4: Bigger pool of talent to fish from  

If you set up local offices in different parts of the country (or world), you can cast your net wider to catch the best talent, regardless of location. The world is your oyster!

Office hub and spoke advantage #5: Increased security

During lockdowns, fraudsters have tried to exploit employees’ unsecured domestic Wi-Fi networks.” – Knight Frank

Working from home could potentially leave employees open to security breaches. So, allowing employees to work in local offices means you can control the safety and security of their devices easier.

The 2 disadvantages of adopting the office hub and spoke model

The hybrid between working from home and working in the office brings clear benefits to businesses. But there are still a couple of downsides to consider before deciding if it’s the right approach.

Office hub and spoke disadvantage #1: Lack of culture

Like working from home, the lack of face-to-face contact some employees might experience in the local offices might make them feel isolated and cut off from the central office hub. This could make it difficult to create a positive and productive culture.

Office hub and spoke disadvantage #2: Logistical headaches

Trying to work out where to place your local offices might give you some headaches, especially if you have a workforce that’s scattered all over the country. Mapping out where your employees live vs where they work now, is a good way to narrow down the potential areas.

Who uses the office hub and spoke model?

To see the hub and spoke model in action, let’s look at a couple of well-known companies that have chosen to adopt this hybrid way of working.

Google

We’ve all heard about the ‘Googleplex’, Google’s headquarters located in Silicon Valley. The infamous complex has been rooted there since 2003 and continues to be the central hub for all Google activity. But, although Google plans to keep their employees working from home until the summer of 2021, they are planning to create a network of spoke offices to give employees the flexibility to be able to work closer to where they live.

Fujitsu

To reduce its office footprint by 50%, IT conglomerate Fujitsu is giving its 80,000 employees the flexibility to choose where they work. Whether it’s in the Tokyo HQ, from home, or from small satellite offices that are closer to where they live. They believe allowing their employees the autonomy to choose how and where they work will boost productivity and improve performance.

Virgin Money

With the rise of the Neobanks and online banking, physical high street banks are a dying breed. Virgin Money has seen this as an opportunity and is turning the struggling bank branches into workspaces for their employees. So, rather than having to trek into the big HQ hubs located in the major cities, their workers can work from their local branch instead.

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