Introducing hub and roam: why we need something more than hub and spoke



Cal Lee, global head of Workthere

Since the start of what has proved to be a challenging year for many of us, the commercial real estate sector has been at the heart of many a conversation with colleagues, friends and family alike. Once the preserve of coffee machine conversations on the fifth floor of the office, the topic of what happens to our working lives and, subsequently, our office space has risen to the heights of the dinner table and become a mainstay of many an evening chat, well for some of us at least.

With some companies returning to the office as soon as lockdown restrictions were lifted earlier on in the summer, they brought with them a plethora of scenarios about what office life might look like in a post-Covid world. While some were quick to rule out any further office working full stop, others opted for a more cautious approach being careful not to dismiss the idea of a hybrid model which would comprise office/home/remote working.

Hub and spoke is one such model that became a popular discussion point and seemed like a balanced response to allow companies to hold onto a city-centre HQ with smaller satellite offices closer to employees’ homes. Although the principles of the hub and spoke model are sound, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the concept simply does not go far enough and is perhaps even too rigid a model for the uber-mobile working generations of today. With mobility picking up again as people become weary of the idea of working at home, coupled with the fact that some offices are not due to open again until 2021, perhaps it’s time hub and spoke was taken one step further?

Introducing, hub and roam. Allowing increased employee freedom, and building on the idea of a central hub and its corresponding spokes, hub and roam does not dictate where these spokes should be. Instead, employees are encouraged to work from wherever suits them best to achieve ultimate productivity. This might be from home, from a nearby café, a hotel foyer, underutilised retail spaces or even from a local flexible office.

Demand for the latter has soared over the last few months – in Workthere’s October sentiment survey, demand for UK suburban flexible office space accounted for a quarter of total demand. In London’s Clapham alone there has been a 600% increase in searches for flexible office space despite there only being two existing coworking spaces in situ at present. This rise in demand has also given way to an increase in pay as you go passes which have been popular with workers whose employers have not yet re-opened their offices. Employees can rent the space on an hourly rate using it for important meetings or calls which require reliable WiFi and no distractions; two things that can be a tall order at home. The appeal also extends to making the most of socialising with people outside of a home environment and consequently with positive effects for our mental health.

Unlike the hub and spoke concept which is an idea with few real examples yet, hub and roam is something that is something already in motion. Going forwards, we expect higher numbers of employers to factor this into their workplace strategies whilst being careful to preserve the allure of the hub as a space in which to collaborate, socialise and promote the culture of the business.