In Today's Digital World, Is Office Location Still Important?
We live and work in a digital world where continuous wireless connectivity is the norm. We rely on it for everything from sending important business emails to avoiding rush-hour traffic. The question is, with the ability to work from virtually anywhere, has the importance of physical office location declined in the Digital Age?
Work is changing and theories abound that the office will die out; and yet the office prevails. The proliferation of business centres, the evolution of flexible serviced offices (now a £2billion industry) and the sharp rise of coworking over the past decade suggests that physical offices are more important than ever before.
As for location, traditionally this was one of the top most important priorities for companies seeking workspace. Today however, new forces are at play - and connectivity is now widely considered of equal, or more, importance for workspace premises.
In a survey of 450 office workers and business owners by WiredScore in June 2015, 78% of respondents said that access to reliable Internet connection was their most important factor when choosing office space. The study claimed: "Reliable connectivity is the #1 most important influencing factor for workers in selecting office space, ahead of transportation, location, amenities, views and environmental sustainability."
Does this mean that business owners will move anywhere in the country for a solid Internet connection?
Of course not. Some businesses indeed value Wi-Fi connectivity more highly than location because their business products or services are web-based, so they have more freedom over location. Others rank location as a more important element because they have a strong local client base or long-established roots. Some firms rank location and connectivity of equal importance.
Every business has its own unique requirements, which is one variable we can always count on.
Good connectivity has become a priority, but it's not the only priority - and even in the Digital Age, location can still make or break a business. For instance, we've seen research that suggests entrepreneurs are exiting London in their droves to less congested and more affordable offices in Birmingham, among other cities. In that sense, cost is a key driver in their decision to relocate - yet the decision to move to Birmingham is much more than a random pin on a map. It's central, it offers easier access to Northern powerhouse cities, it has growing transport links, and it's still less than an hour from London.
So what makes a 'good' office location?
The answer is, again, entirely dependent on each company's requirements. Are you looking for a logistics back room or a client-facing office? Is it a team office to generate collaboration or a stop-off point for mobile workers? Is it to develop a fledgling startup or to consolidate an over-ambitious growth drive?
These are all important considerations, as is the composition of the area and its community. For instance, the number of competitors already offering a similar service in your area can affect local demand. Yet high competition isn't necessarily a bad thing; it can draw the attention of consumers who 'expect' to find your business in that particular area (that's why you get financial hubs, tech clusters, and media zones like Tech City in London and MediaCity in Salford).
Furthermore, narrowing down a good location isn't just a financial exercise. A community with good childcare, local shops and cafes, and even pleasant lunchtime walks can be an important 'pull' factor for business owners and office-based staff.
Other considerations include good transport options and excellent parking. Don't underestimate the value of ample parking - this routinely ranks as a high priority for companies touring UBC's premises. When you spend the majority of your working week driving to the office, good parking is essential - not just for you but also for your clients, visitors, suppliers, and staff.
Ultimately, a good office location brings people together. It encourages open communication, it fosters community, it taps into the local client base, it encourages dedication and belonging, it reflects a company's objectives, and it indicates that you want to be a permanent asset to your area.
Even today, the old adage 'location, location, location' is as relevant than ever. But best of all, we have reached a point in the Digital Age where businesses can have a good location and excellent Wi-Fi connectivity, thanks to the prevalence of fibre optic networks and market-leading IT suppliers. Even in rural or out-of-town business parks, which come with the aforementioned perks of good local facilities and pleasant walks, largescale investment in IT connectivity means in many locations companies can, finally, have it all.