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Why the big city office still beats homeworking

Manchester Town Hall

I do enjoy a good conference panel bust-up – it brightens up any event. In Manchester a couple of weeks ago, two panellists disagreed on whether homeworking was still a thing. One argued that it very much still had its place, the other that it was quickly going the way of Man United’s title chances. It didn’t come to blows, so there’s no viral YouTube video to enjoy, I’m afraid.

I still speak to people – though rarely those in the property business – who think that offices are so yesterday and city centres are dying. In reality the opposite is true. Despite the lure of a day working from home in your pyjamas and the pain of commuting, it turns out there’s a big advantage to companies in packing us together in cities.

Becg recently moved from Salford Quays to Manchester City Centre. Our former office was a stones-throw from Old Trafford, and on the Metrolink, but always felt like the quieter end of town. The new place sits between Manchester Town Hall and King Street – an upmarket shopping drag. We can’t step foot outside without tripping over a Christmas market or five.

And it makes a real difference. Anyone who works in a city centre knows that the ease of meeting up with clients and suppliers – potential and actual – increases productivity, and the lure of a better working environment makes recruitment simpler.

Successful cities

Successful cities will continue to grow. They will cram more jobs into the centre, and the jobs will tend to be high-value. Those cities had better make sure the necessary infrastructure is in place. Public transport, cycling and walking. The right mix of office types and sizes. Shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. Broadband, electricity, gas, water and sewerage. The ability to make timely deliveries. The bigger and denser a city centre becomes, the harder the challenge of making it all work, and the bigger the prize if it does.

From my Manchester office I am within fifteen minutes’ walk of thousands of companies. I can get to work by tram, train, bike, bus or – if I have to – car. I have hundreds of choices for my lunch (though not all are kind to my waistline or bank balance).

So yes, fast broadband allows me to spend the occasional day of homeworking. But successful cities will continue to grow because people in professional jobs are generally more productive working in city centres.
And if the city wants to keep us – and the thousands of other businesses like us – it have better step up to the mark and deliver what we need to thrive.

becg is a sector-specialist, multi-disciplinary communications consultancy for the Built Environment sectors.  Find our more about how we can help your business at becg.com and follow us @becgUK, or give Iain a call for a chat over a coffee or festive gluhwein.

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