October 12, 2020 2 min read

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen tens of millions of Americans engage in a gigantic experiment in working from home — one that looks to be more permanent than anyone might have imagined. Corporation after corporation has announced that they won’t be reopening their offices until mid-2021, at least.  Some commentators are even predicting the death of the office and the end of cities.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Now, more than ever, the issue of where we work — of place and location — remains a fundamental question.

Pandemics and other crises can disrupt or change the status quo, but history shows they can also accelerate trends already underway. The question of where to locate corporate facilities has been increasing in strategic importance for a long time. Corporations were facing a rising backlash to their perceived effects on housing prices and gentrification in superstar cities and tech hubs, and from attempts to hoard taxpayer-financed incentives — a backlash that is only likely grow in the wake of the growing movement for racial and economic justice that has swept American cities since the brutal police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

In today’s increasingly fraught economic, political, and social environment, decisions about where to locate are becoming more, not less, important. Figuring out who will work from home and who will require actual office space, which offices to prune and which to keep, how they will be configured and shared, and precisely where they should be sited — in talent-laden superstar cities, in more cost-effective second- or third-tier metros, in downtown urban centers, suburbs or rural regions — requires more strategic thought, analysis, and planning than ever.

Location today is a central component of corporate strategy. It is not just a cost that can be cut, but a key factor in attracting and retaining talent. What I call “locational strategy” is essential to the ability of corporations to gain competitive advantage. My insights on locational strategy are drawn from both my academic research in economic geography and business location, my personal involvement with numerous high-profile location decisions, and work with high-tech companies and cities over the past several decades.

To read the full HBR article, click the link below:

 https://hbr.org/2020/09/the-uncertain-future-of-corporate-hqs 

Harold Hillman
Harold Hillman



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