What is the 'hub and spoke' model and why is it so popular?

As IWG’s Spaces announces its new strategic partnership with EY Norway, we interviewed Hyphen’s workspace specialists Wayne Taylor and Matías Menichetti to find out more about the ‘hub and spoke’ model and what this means for the future of office design…

What do we mean by ‘hub and spoke’?

Matías: “Whereas traditional office headquarters operate from a single, central location, the ‘hub and spoke’ model allows employees to work from their company’s city hub or a dedicated spoke location that is much closer to home.”

Why do you think that this model is becoming more popular and how does it work?

Matías: “There is no doubt that the outbreak of Covid-19 has changed the way that we all think about work. How and where we work has been widely discussed over the course of this year and we can’t help but wonder if empty offices will ever come close to full capacity again. The next phase will likely be an experiment for most businesses, and we are no exception to this at Hyphen, having launched our own flexible working trial between August and November.

Although people have become accustomed to the flexibility of working from home, businesses still need somewhere that can support collaboration, team building and spontaneity. This collaborative space is what we would consider as the ‘hub’, where people can meet, train, and innovate in a flexible and safe environment. It’s also where businesses can best express their values and vision and promote their company culture.

Whereas there are benefits to working from home, there are also some disadvantages, from poor bandwidth to increased isolation. ‘Spoke’ locations offer the freedom of choice, social interaction and amenities that people are looking for, without the long commute or distractions of home working.

The possibility of having a more mobile workforce paired with the reduced cost in rental space makes ‘hub and spoke’ an attractive workplace model for employers. The flexibility of this model is equally appealing to employees – particularly, to those who have young families and are looking for a better work / life balance.”

So, how do serviced / co-working offices fit into this ‘hub and spoke’ model?

Wayne: “Most corporate offices are located in city centres where the working population has traditionally been focussed. However, with the majority of people now seeing the advantages of working from home (or closer to home), large headquarters will need to be reduced or adapted to suit a much more mobile workforce.

Rather than spending money on sourcing new ‘spoke’ locations, some businesses are instead choosing to invest in local serviced offices such as those being offered by the likes of IWG and WeWork. Many of these offices are already situated in central locations and as well as boasting top of the range facilities, these spaces are tried and tested and above all, flexible.

However, what people might not have considered is their potential as headquarters or ‘hubs’. Last week, IWG’s Spaces announced that it is acting as both ‘hub and spoke’ for one of the world’s largest professional service organisations, EY Norway. EY was looking to relocate and chose Spaces Stortorvet 7 as its new HQ in Oslo. As well as having four dedicated floors in an all-singing, all-dancing new premises, EY’s employees will also have access to IWG’s meeting rooms, workstations and co-working facilities around the world – a huge bonus for any international company!

It will be interesting to see how this ‘hub and spoke’ workplace model is adopted by others.”

Do you anticipate any changes to the design of serviced / co-working spaces?

Wayne: “I’ve been leading Hyphen’s work with Spaces for two years now and during this time, we’ve delivered over 50 projects across Europe and we’re now beginning to look at the brand’s expansion in Latin America.

         Spaces Marquês de Pombal (Portugal)                    Spaces Castellana (Spain)

All Spaces locations have a ‘Business Club’, a place where people can sit, work, meet for coffee and network. This is an open and dynamic space that can also be used to host events. It’s a very popular space and due to its flexible nature, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is something that we see more of in future projects and perhaps, on a larger scale.

Social distancing requirements will also have an impact on the future of office design and the advantage of having a non-conventional set up is that it can be easily modified. Rows of open-plan desks will likely be replaced by smaller cells which can be easily adapted to local requirements. We’re already looking at introducing flexible partition systems to provide companies and teams with this privacy and although this might seem like an expensive investment, creating cellular spaces that can adapt to varying sizes of teams is going to save businesses such as IWG money in the long-term.

There’s also been increased demand for booths, and we’re finding that we’re introducing more and more of these into schemes. These booths are proving popular with Spaces’ clients as they serve a variety of purposes. As well as facilitating informal or semi-private meetings, they also offer a quiet escape for people who want to focus on their individual tasks without necessarily being ‘alone’. Booths are often located near the café and so, people can enjoy a generally lively atmosphere without being overpowered (which I’ve taken advantage of whilst working remotely)!

I also think that the future planning and design of projects will be characterised by sustainable choices and a good example of this is Spaces Stortorvet 7 – the premises of which will be BREEAM certified.”

What role do we have to play in delivering this ‘hub and spoke’ model?

Wayne: “We are in unknown territory, but significant changes to the workspace sector are taking place, and we have a responsibility to support that change by helping companies to provide their employees with a good work / life balance whilst retaining a sense of belonging and community.”

Authors: Wayne Taylor and Matías Menichetti

Published: 20 November 2020