Suburban Migration will Drive the ‘Hybrid’ way of Working in SA
A substantial portion of employees have relocated to home, but the majority will still need to go back to the office in the immediate future. South Africa, whilst struggling a recession, has also had to embrace the forced remote working through the lockdowns. The evolving technology is making these transitions more possible than ever before. It is, therefore, not surprising that business leaders in South Africa are seriously considering reducing office space use.
Flexible workspace was already on a strong growth curve before the pandemic, with property consultancy JLL forecasting last year that it would take up 30% of total office workspace by the year 2030. Covid-19 has seriously disrupted the office market and has expedited this migration. “The coronavirus pandemic is putting economic pressure on tenants but also making it hard for them to forecast their property needs, which is driving a preference for flexible space”, says Joanne Bushell, Managing Director for South Africa IWG Plc, the largest flexible workspace provider in the world.
The positive experience that many occupiers are having with working from home is now being considered a potential major turning point in how they think about real estate. Some companies are talking about a return to a “hub and spoke” model with a higher quantity of smaller offices in suburban locations. This provides an opportunity to accommodate everyone.
Not everyone is cut out for home working, and this is where suburban serviced offices and flexible spaces could be the right fit. The benefits for businesses are many, with flexibility being the biggest. Without being tied to a rigid fixed lease, companies can change their workspace set-up in line to their current needs, which is better for their bottom line.
Whilst the financial benefits of choosing a suburban office over one in a city centre location is a plus, the concept of accessibility is now becoming equally important. It means no more hours lost in rush-hour traffic jams, as well as ample parking and quicker access to airports and other towns and cities.
Socially distanced solutions
Across the world right now, people are moving out of densely populated major cities in favour of either working from home or finding alternative office space outside of central business districts. Smart leaders don’t want their staff in crowded taxis, in cramped elevators, or mixing in busy open-plan offices. Instead, they are looking for more spacious premises in the suburbs to help their employees stay socially distanced.
The reality is that teams still need places to come together and safely connect with their colleagues and clients. With the advantage of having much more space in suburbia, modern office complexes in suburbs can offer open spaces and even roof-top terraces and gardens.
Satellite suburban offices
Now that employees have had a taste of commute-free days, the thought of cramming on to public transport or sitting in traffic for hours is less inviting than it ever was. Satellite offices are becoming an ideal choice for corporations who still want to keep their headquarters in a prime city location, but also want more office space in outer city areas.
Aside from being more cost-effective – rent is cheaper in the suburbs – moving a business into other neighbourhoods can also have benefits for the local community. When a company moves to an area, it brings in a raft of people – employees, clients, suppliers, and customers – which in turn will help the location to grow and prosper, with new facilities, shops, and restaurants that bring economic growth to outer areas of a city.
It makes sense for companies to move towards flexible office space in suburban locations, which offers the best of both worlds for their employees. And, if anything, this year has shown the business world that the corporate wheels can keep turning even if you’re not in the heart of the business district.
While the future could see more companies opting for a smaller head office in a central location, alongside a clutch of well-placed satellite hubs, the need for smart, modern office spaces with cutting-edge facilities is essential to business success.