From the Caribbean to cafes, alternatives to the downtown office are multiplying

2020 will forever be known as the year of our solar system’s change in the workplace.

The gravitational pull of the office is the weakest it has ever been, and the past 18 months have proven that most employees can truly work from anywhere.

And since many of us take advantage of the flexibility it offers, it’s no surprise that the majority (86%) of employees want to continue working remotely at least once a week. But what does this mean for our cities? And what effect will this have on a global level?

As we move towards a more hybrid approach to the workplace, every organization, team and individual will need to define what hybrid work really means to them: where do you need to work and how often?

Should it be at company headquarters, at home, or somewhere in between, like an on-demand workplace or a coffee shop? And why is it now important?

Once these questions begin to be answered at a micro level, they will begin to have ripple effects in people’s lives.

Before the pandemic, entire families were often uprooted and moved to the other side of the planet so that the breadwinner could sit in a room, at a desk, on a carbon fiber chair, as it was what was expected.

But now that we’ve proven that many industries can work from anywhere, the question of where and how people choose to live is the most important question since the Industrial Revolution.

We now take a look at the quality of life and proximity to family in relation to transport links and travel times. For the very first time, going abroad has become a real possibility; and going to the countryside to enjoy a lower cost of living and a better quality of life is increasingly attractive.

Nonetheless, as always, there will be winners and losers in this seismic shift as we move into our “new normal”.

Our supercities will be the hardest hit. The loss of commuters in London of even just 20% will affect all dependent sectors: retail, transport, food and drink, leisure – with commuting losses currently at £ 1.9bn, according to figures from the Greater London Authority.

But that loss for London (and other supercities) could be a major gain for the rest of the country – or even for other countries that have experienced economic decline in the past 50 years.

Take the Caribbean or Southern Europe for example: rich in sunshine, natural beauty and quality of life, but poor in economic opportunities.

We saw Barbados announce its remote worker visa last summer, and cities like Lisbon have since accelerated their status as mecca for digital nomads through flexible working.

The potential for rural regeneration and migration of talent to low-income countries offers immense opportunities, but depends entirely on how employers respond to hybrid work.

Harry Smith Beach, Bottom Bay, Barbados. Barbados announced its teleworker visa last summer (Photo: Getty)

In the past three months alone, 76% of the companies we spoke with at Hubble are looking for hybrid work solutions.

It can be intimidating trying to please everyone – I created the world’s first hybrid work platform and still struggle – but there is only one answer: ask their what they want.

From coworking spaces to hotel lobbies, museums to membership clubs, our research has shown that the one place employees don’t want to work five days a week is the office.

The importance of convenience and variety indicates that the “workplace” is no longer related to the office or home, but rather to a variety of “third spaces” around the world.

Tushar Agarwal is co-founder of the Hubble Hybrid Work Platform

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