Headquarters, Hubquarters, and Beyond

Companies are finally moving away from the traditional workplace setup that centers around a corporate headquarters where employees gather on a daily basis and all the leadership presides. The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. When employees were forced to adjust to working away from the office, some began to discover that their productivity relied less on where they work, but how they work.

Now, employers are looking at innovative workplace models that incorporate the new lessons  learned during the pandemic. These innovative models include improved versions of prior workplace trends. Hub and spoke, for example, is a model used by many companies that includes one central office hub and smaller spoke or satellite offices. The latest iteration of this model is part of a growing group of hybrid workplace models designed to offer a physical workplace for those who want one, while also appealing to increasing employee demands for flexibility. 

According to a recent survey of workers in India, employees are receptive to such models. Fifty-eight percent of participants in the survey expressed an interest in working from a nearby satellite location like a branch office or coworking space provided by their employer.

These satellite locations do not have to be a step down from the main HQ as they sometimes currently are. They can be a vibrant part of a network with key leadership present and a dynamic mix of teams collaborating in various combinations. They can function like mini headquarters, or hubquarters, and this is only the beginning. The future of work calls for an even more decentralized workplace that prioritizes collaboration regardless of location. Let’s take a look at this model and what comes next.  

A different kind of hybrid

In a recent survey, 70 percent of respondents said that team management, collaboration, and networking are more effective in an office environment. This report points to the importance of having a physical base for better communication, collaboration, transparency, branding, and shared work culture among employees.

Despite the benefits of the in-office work experience, however, survey after survey indicates more employees want to work in a hybrid workplace where they have more freedom over how often they work in the office and how they collaborate. As a result, employers are increasingly embracing the idea in order to attract and retain top talent. In one recent survey the majority of executives said they expect that employees will be on-site between 21 and 80 percent of the time, or one to four days per week.

Under a basic hybrid model, employees work in the office on certain days and remotely on others, which can either be regulated or autonomous. This can create a number of challenges, but specifically, hybrid models can leave a large office headquarters looking like a ghost town. The new network model eliminates this problem by transforming that headquarters into one of many hubquarters. The former headquarters size may shrink, but the hubquarters will offset that loss of space.

Hubquarters don’t have to be formal offices either. They can be any remote location where employees gather or work independently. Employers can provide smaller office spaces or hubs, such as coworking spaces, where employees can come together to work, or they can work in multiple locations outside of the offices. 

It’s important to note that this hubquarters network will look different in each market. Established hubs like Silicon Valley and New York will remain an important center and new hubs of talent will emerge driven by the desire for a shorter commute and in-person collaboration. 

Benefits of hubquarters

During the pandemic, one of the top reasons cited by employees as to why they preferred to work remotely was that they no longer had a grueling commute. The new office network model offers employees multiple options to work in-person with colleagues as well as independently closer to home or at home. 

Tech giants such as Amazon opened offices in 17 North American cities with plans to open six more, which closely resembles the new hubquarters network model. Last year, Google executives said they were considering adding new, smaller hub offices to give employees more flexibility around where they live. And Fujitsu recently announced plans to reduce its office footprint by 50 percent while giving employees the option to work from home, a hub, or satellite offices closer to where they live. These are all examples of a network designed to give employees freedom to work where they choose to or need to.

Cost is a major factor leading some companies to adopt a network model. Increasing real estate costs and decreasing space in city centres are leading many companies to reassess traditional workplace models. Maintaining a large headquarters that is half occupied on most days prohibits many companies from having smaller satellite offices. With the network model, multiple locations are more possible. 

Transitioning to a network model can also help a company reduce its carbon footprint. In addition to reduced emissions resulting from shorter commutes, hubquarters take up less space and thus require less energy use from appliances, air conditioning, and heating. 

Looking ahead

Though the hubquarters network model offers increased flexibility for workers, if it remains hindered by tradition and leadership sticks close to one hubquarters, then employees who find they work better outside of the hub have fewer opportunities for collaboration with leadership. 

Collaboration has proven key to business success. A recent survey found that satisfied employees in the U.S. are twice as likely as unsatisfied employees to say that collaboration makes them feel more productive. Additionally, more than half of all “happy” employees collaborate with five or more people on any given day. 

Collaboration doesn’t have to happen in an office to be successful, however. The survey also reported that nearly 70 percent of those who described themselves as satisfied with their job indicated that they collaborate with people outside of their office at least once or twice a week. This demonstrates that collaboration can happen anywhere and shouldn’t be reserved for hubs. 

If the pandemic showed employees they can work from anywhere, then leadership needs to be more proactive about meeting employees where they are. Moving forward, employees need a workplace that operates more like a central nervous system with leadership that traverses the entire system, moving from hub to hub, and serving as the catalyst to get synapses firing, literally. 


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