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How businesses can capitalise on the development of regions

How businesses can capitalise on the development of regions

Picture1 3 - Business ExpressBy Sachin Agrawal, UK Managing Director, Zoho Corporation

Historically, big cities such as London and Manchester have been the preferred location for many businesses, for perceived benefits such as greater new business opportunities, a better skilled workforce and a plethora of local amenities for employees.

However, as attitudes towards working models, locations and employee experience have shifted in recent years, catalysed by the Covid-19 pandemic and economic turbulence, businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits that regional workplaces have to offer.

A recent IWG survey revealed that over half of businesses have opened offices or working spaces outside of city centres in response to changing working models.

This shift has been supported by the UK Government announcing £75 million in funding for regional innovation hubs to support local economies, funding 10 regional areas for innovation projects led by local businesses.

Shifting attitudes and boosted regional funding are opening an avenue that businesses should pay attention to.

Socio-Economic Benefits

Typically, when many businesses congregate in large urban centres, staff follow in search of job opportunities.

However, regional hubs can play a pivotal role in preventing talent erosion, caused by staff leaving rural areas in search of work in busy urban centres.  As regional hubs develop, people won’t need to uproot their lives and their families, as local job prospects will become more abundant.

An influx of job opportunities in regional areas supports the redistribution of economic wealth away from overcrowded urban areas, bringing more prosperity for the area as a whole, not just the people that are taking those regional jobs. This can lead to local investment being distributed better, through more and improved amenities and facilities to develop the entire area to support regional workforces.

Regional development can also ease the huge congestion and overcrowding that impacts big cities and reduces the quality of life for those that live or move there.

Business Benefits

Reduced reliance on urban centres enables businesses to choose office space in cost-effective regional areas, lowering office expenditure and reducing spend on overheads due to lower rental prices.

With staff more likely to stay in regional areas due to investment and development, hybrid and remote working models become more viable options for businesses, further supporting lesser office expenditure through greater flexibility on contracts and location.

This expansion opens doors to wider talent pools, enabling businesses to connect with prospective staff who may have previously been unwilling or unable to move to urban centres in search of job opportunities.

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Staff Benefits

Today, employee experience is a critical part of remaining competitive as an employer. Flexible working options are important to enable staff to manage their lifestyles more easily. Businesses that operate in regional areas and facilitate hybrid and remote working models are well-placed to support this shift.

Rural regions offer a unique community appeal that can be rare within city centres, and staff can enjoy the wellbeing benefits of avoiding crowded urban areas and having more affordable housing, offering more space and a better quality of life.

The flexibility of regional offices, the ability to be closer to family and friends, and the cost savings of regional areas can greatly improve employees’ work-life balance, giving them greater freedom, and in turn, improving productivity during their work hours.

Using Tech To Make It Work Effectively

Technology is an important component in allowing regional business development to flourish.

Communication and collaboration platforms are an essential aspect of a successful hybrid or remote working model, connecting businesses and customers as well as internal departments and teams across multiple channels in real-time.

Investment in 5G networks in regional hubs enhances the digitisation of businesses in rural towns, offering ultra-fast data transfer speeds and lower latency to support the adoption of a wide range of technology solutions, such as the communication and collaboration platforms that make businesses tick.

Innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence can also benefit from the improved connectivity of 5G networks, bringing the benefits of AI-enabled customer experience tools that can provide businesses with a competitive edge, not to mention potential improvements in efficiency through the automation of business processes.

The current issue faced by many UK businesses is that only 19 per cent of UK businesses can be described as having good digital health, according to a recent Zoho study*, indicating that digitisation is lacking across the UK and potentially holding many businesses back.

The funding of regional areas is therefore even more vital, providing regional businesses with improved technology infrastructure and tools that can overcome geographical barriers, provide access to larger markets and ultimately grow their operations, powered by technology.

Time For Change

The Government’s investment scheme can deliver socio-economic benefits to regions across the UK, while providing both businesses and staff with benefits that haven’t been capitalised on – all of which rests on the foundation of technology enablement.

Now is the time for businesses to re-evaluate their working models and their approach to office locations to capitalise on the benefits that the UK’s growing regions can bring.

* The Zoho study polled 306 senior digital transformation decision makers at start-ups, SMEs and large enterprises, via independent polling agency Censuswide, in August 2023.

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