How will suburban growth affect recruiters?

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The flex economy is set to benefit local economies – and enterprising HR professionals


As the trend for flexspace continues to grow around the world, it follows that flexible offices will be found in an increasingly diverse range of locations. Where once the traditional office was the preserve of big cities and major conurbations (involving lengthy commutes, congested roads and crowded carriages to get there), cloud computing and sophisticated software now allow jobs to be performed from almost anywhere with an internet connection. This development has opened up the workplace to fresh opportunities and revolutionised the fortunes of employers and the lives of employees in the process – but what does it mean for recruiters?

According to the Suburban Economic Survey 2019, an independent report from Development Economics and commissioned by Regus, flexible-office space is set to contribute $254bn (£196bn) to smaller towns, cities and suburbs over the next 10 years. The impact on job creation will be seismic, with an average of 218 new jobs and value creation of $16.47m Gross Value Added (GVA) to the local economy with every flexspace. At the same time, employees are predicted to save a total of 7,416 hours a year by working closer to home and cutting the commute – and 188 metric tonnes of CO2 as a result.

“When people commute into major cities, their wallets commute with them,” Mark Dixon, the CEO for Regus parent company IWG, says. “What this study shows is that providing more opportunities for people to work closer to home can have a tremendous effect, not just on them, but on their local area too.” And it’s not just the one-man band or the plucky startup that’s fuelling this growth; in fact, companies of all shapes and sizes are getting involved, each for different reasons. “Businesses also recognise the benefits and we are seeing increasing demand from companies of all sizes for flexible space in smaller cities and towns,” he states. “Larger businesses are opting for a ‘hub-and-spoke’ real-estate model. At the same time, smaller enterprises want to cluster and collaborate, and so choose flexible workspaces to be near other businesses.”

Suburban growth, then, is here to stay – and the implications for the jobs market are likely to be many and varied. Firstly, it will allow recruiters to consider a wider range of candidates. From the formerly stay-at-home parent, for whom a time-sapping city-centre commute would be impossible, to somebody with a disability that precludes them from navigating public transport during rush hour, the talent pool is set to widen considerably. Young graduates and millennials, who may find the prospect of daily travel prohibitively expensive, are also set to prosper, as are professionals who choose to live outside the hustle and bustle. Drawing from a more varied range of recruits has positive cultural and social implications too, as new perspectives offer fresh insights into traditional ways of doing things. In fact, it’s something company bosses and HR departments actively search for, so for a recruiter to be in a situation where they can present more options can only be to the benefit of all.

According to an article in The Global Recruiter, “the increasing migration of flexible office space to the outskirts of major UK cities is creating a ‘flex economy’ that could contribute more than £12 billion to local economies in the next decade”. A new economy will require an entirely new infrastructure, from trickledown support services like secretarial staff to coffee shops for that much-needed caffeine fix first thing in the morning. Recruitment will be impacted too: a company that conducts all its business away from the city centre is unlikely to suddenly want to decamp to an offsite satellite when a fresh hiring round is on the horizon.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, however. In fact, an enterprising recruiter can use this to their advantage. A freelance recruiter setting up shop in the very same flexspace creating jobs in that new area might find themselves in the perfect position to help. And for the forward-thinking recruitment agency, going one step further and relocating their entire business could be a profitable decision indeed. Think about it: as startups and their suppliers in one particular industry tend to cluster around a dedicated location (tech and Cambridge, UK, is just one example), an agency might wish to specialise in a certain discipline and become an industry-specific HR specialist in the process. Entire divisions of large corporates practising the “hub-and-spoke” model mentioned above might also be a source of business for the proactive recruiter.

It’s an exciting time for employers, employees and recruiters alike. As the largest demographic in the global workforce, millennials have capitalised on the spoils the Fourth Industrial Revolution has bestowed, in order to spearhead a better way of working that places a greater emphasis on quality of life – one that often involves choosing where to perform their professional duties. Companies that recognise and allow this will get happier, more productive workers, and recruiters that recognises it are likely to benefit too.


Download the full Suburban Economic Survey 2019 now to discover more