No matter which side of the fence you are on it is clear – a hybrid working model, mixing remote and office working is here to stay. This does not mean that everyone will work from home and this does not mean you won’t be able to work in the office full-time but more the flexibility that a hybrid model brings will be available (and taken up by a significant proportion). This will allow people to choose the model that works best for them.
Large and small businesses alike will reevaluate their requirements over the coming weeks and months – most likely experimenting which will work best for their business. They will hopefully consult with their employees along the way. This hybrid model will create a shift in where people work, live, study and shop – this will create a shift in local economies. A hybrid model may allow employers to attract different talent.
More people working from home for part of their week will bring an economical benefit locally. With more people remaining local, rather than commuting into city centres, there is now an opportunity to really drive regeneration and growth in our smaller towns and suburbs. For many people a working week would have taken them away from their local area and what the last year has shown is that locally there are retail and hospitality that is unfamiliar to them. They may be in a town with a small market. A new emphasis on the area around our homes, with people spending more time and money there. This needs to continue into the future. Just reading the Best places to live 2021 in The Times highlights so many benefits for those places selected that we all can probably find locally if we look.
So with the workforce working more locally this will boost local economies – though it will benefit where commuters live. So commuter villages & towns will do better economically than others. Those towns with less commuters potentially will not see the same direct benefit and could become a longer term factor for which towns prosper (and which don’t). Spending patterns have changed. Online is well and truly embedded. The race for just-in-time for our shopping needs is certainly making delivery companies busy. The spending patterns, and spending more locally, are also now permanent.
Are local high streets ready though? Is this the opportunity for new enterprises to be launched to really create a high street that caters to all needs. I joke with my children on a Saturday that we need to visit the butcher, the baker and (ofcourse) the candlestick maker. Now I don’t need candles! But for example a fishmonger wouldn’t go a miss and further investment in co-working spaces. It is time to rethink town planning – a 15-minute neighbourhoods – we need spaces to meet, to work as well as outdoor space too.
With a new hybrid model, the impact will vary across people differently. Certainly as a knowledge worker (high-skilled worker whose job is done on a computer) I have seen immense changes in the technology I use and the locations I am able to productively work at. I see the freedom positive.
Working from home is basically an option now. For most it wasn’t before because it felt like it wouldn’t work. Amazing what a pandemic can do for you! You can be productive working from home, if you put aside homeschooling and feeling like work never ends because you never leave your house. There is no commute, though many chose to take a short walk before the day commenced. This is because the workforce is now working more flexibly.
There are benefits from working at home and not just the lack of commute – though the benefits will be felt differently for people. More sleep, more home cooked food and easier the exercise. I personally have got to know our new neighbours really well from chats over the garden fence. However, and at times I have felt this, there has become a blur of that line between home and work. Data does suggest people are working longer hours.
So I come back to the question I started with, does our entire lives need to be a hybrid. For me the answer is yes. We want and need the best of all worlds and a hybrid lifestyle enables this. The best of local shops with the access to the city. Working in the office with the option to work anywhere else. Just imagine the better “us” it will create by creating this world around us.g