Covid may have brought us closer to a ‘hub and spoke’ working model

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The changes brought about by Covid-19 have given the working world plenty of food for thought. Large companies have rolled out remote working policies, hiring teams have pivoted online and employees have had to adjust to working from home.

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To examine all of this in more detail, recruitment firm Robert Walters has published a new report on the future of work in Ireland and the UK. It surveyed more than 5,000 professionals around the world in an initial survey and more than 2,000 business leaders in a follow-up.

In the first survey, 85pc said they expect more flexibility around working from home in the future. But 60pc of participants in the follow-up said they had concerns about employee productivity if they were to allow more people to work remotely.

The skills in highest demand

The report’s second chapter focuses on the most in-demand future skills. Despite the rise of AI for “administrative and transactional tasks”, it says, humans will still be in control of workplaces and projects.

Soft skills such as critical thinking, communication, business intelligence, management, leadership, collaboration and crisis management will be important. Digital skills will become increasingly essential as digital transformation continues at pace.

Robert Walters’ report says that three in four CEOs are worried about not having the talent they need for the future. And yet, just 18pc of CEOs have made “significant progress” in implementing upskilling programmes. One in 10 have made no progress in this area whatsoever, despite more than three-quarters (77pc) of employees saying they are willing to upskill.

The report advises employers to communicate their future-skills strategies to their staff to encourage professional development.

‘Hub and spoke’ model

One-third of businesses that took part in Robert Walters’ survey said they have plans to downsize. They will move to a “hub and spoke office model”, the report says. This model involves a downsized city centre office – the ‘hub’ – with smaller “satellite offices” – the ‘spokes’ – in rural areas.

The hub acts as the company’s headquarters, in which client and larger team meetings are held. Spokes are versatile and designed to facilitate co-working and collaboration.

Of the companies that took part in the survey, 37pc said they are considering this new way of working. According to Robert Walters, this will see a 130pc increase in the number of professionals moving out of city centres and just 30pc of the workforce remaining in these regions at any one time.

Director at Robert Walters Ireland, Suzanne Feeney, said that the pandemic has pushed businesses to “rethink their space and logistical needs”. The hub and spoke model has changed from what it was a year ago, she explained, as it’s now focused on “pairing employee preferences for remote work with flexible physical workplaces that allow them to connect with their colleagues”.

“With more and more companies becoming comfortable with their employees working from home, it will become the norm for a headquarters to only have around 30pc of employees working from there on a day-to-day basis,” she said.

“However, our research highlights how important it is to maintain workplace culture in order to bring the best out of a workforce. Spokes or regional offices will work in that they aim to address all of the employees concerns around flexibility, commute time, cost of travel and work-life balance, while still allowing companies to train, motivate and monitor employees’ productivity on site.”

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