Prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the workplace was already in transition. The workforce in Bristol and far beyond was already demanding more flexibility and choice in where, when and how to work.
Now, with companies having been forced to embrace remote working, we are in a whole new world, catapulted into the future in terms of working practices.
Many companies and employees are now questioning why they have an office in the first place, and whilst we will see some level of return to office-based working, working patterns are likely to look quite different.
A study by property consultants JLL showed that while some people are keen to return to the office as soon as possible, others have enjoyed working from home.
So, the likelihood is we will see a hybrid model of both working at home and in the office – and we recently launched a roadmap to help businesses with this transition here.
But this still means many more people staying in the area they live during the day. What impact will this have on Bristol’s business communities? And will we see a new emphasis on hyper local high streets?
My view is that we will.
Our hyper local high streets are set for reinvention. People working at home are highly likely to use their neighbourhood shops, restaurants, pubs and cafes, leading to the emergence of new businesses in residential areas to service their needs.
This could also include hubs home to office equipment like printers, photocopiers and scanners so people have all the tools they need nearby. Take the likes of Fishponds, Westbury Park, Redfield and St George for example – these are prime candidates for the growth of the hyperlocal high street.
Of course, with existing shops having to adapt to new social distancing measures, for example limits on the number of people in store keeping their customers outside until notified, there may be a different kind of hyper local economy that arises out of this too.
Sports stadiums and airports already benefit from captive audiences in this way – so we may see pop-ups selling food and drink for customers as they wait.
The movement to support independent businesses as they’ve faced unprecedented challenges will play a key part in this behaviour change.
We’ve seen huge support for Bristol’s independent businesses in the past few months– with people urged to buy from them as they adapt to online deliveries and takeaways and as lockdown eases.
The launch of the Bristol Food Union promotes ways people can support the city’s food and farming communities, whilst a group of volunteers provided Bristol with access to an interactive map highlighting independent retailers and producers offering delivery during lockdown.
We now value our independents more than ever, remote working is here to stay and small businesses are looking to adapt to the ‘new normal’ – say “hello” to the new hyper local high street.
Nick Fairham is architect director at BDP in Bristol
Main photo: Ellie Pipe