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While Covid-19 seems to be coming under control in many countries, the changes it’s wrought in the world of work look set to last. As diverse businesses such as Google, Facebook and Standard Chartered bank commit to hybrid working for the long term, it seems unlikely we’ll go back to the 9-to-5, office-based grind of the past.
But what is hybrid working?
Put simply, hybrid working is a flexible approach that allows employees to blend time in the office with time spent working remotely. A popular model is ‘hub and spoke’, which recasts the corporate HQ as a space for connecting and collaborating (the ‘hub’), and lets workers run their day-to-day diaries from home or local flexspaces (the ‘spokes’). The benefits for both businesses and their people are clear: improved work-life balance, a lower carbon footprint, plus money saved on costly office leases and commutes.
The rising popularity of flexspaces will help support the realisation of The 15-Minute City – a concept first advanced by Carlos Moreno of the Sorbonne, Paris. Put simply, a 15-Minute City is a place where everything a resident needs – from work and education to restaurants and parks – can be reached within a quarter of an hour, on foot or by bike.
Already, several major cities in Europe and the USA have embraced the ideal and begun making its pursuit part of official government policy. Paris, Copenhagen, Portland and Austin are among them, but smaller cities and towns are getting in on the act, too, with Brighton and Ipswich among the UK’s early adopters.
Goodbye to the long listen
Few of us are likely to miss sitting in traffic or squeezing into a crowded train every morning, but kissing the commute goodbye will mean less time for listening to our favourite podcasts.
According to Statista, podcasts have steadily increased in popularity over the past few years, and reached 15.6 million listeners in 2020. Almost 80% of listens were via smartphones, according to its research, which also showed that podcasts commonly accompanied driving.
Research from the USA shows that two thirds of listeners in the country use mobile devices or tablets to stream their pods, underlining their status as something many people enjoy while on the move.
Enter the microcast
The good news is that microcasts can replace your favourite longer listens on days when you’re working locally. This new kind of audio content, which typically lasts for no longer than 10 minutes, is perfectly formed for the shorter commutes we could all soon be enjoying.
Designed for distribution across multiple media, including podcast apps, smart speakers and even Spotify playlists, the microcast is specially optimised for use on all of these platforms in a way many traditional pods are not.
The microcast is arguably the perfect medium for regular, frequent and quick communication. Short and easy for people to listen to while going about their busy lives, microcasts are also fairly inexpensive to produce. Bands, musicians, actors and brands are already recognising the unique opportunity they represent for reaching fans.
In addition, microcasts are a great way to deliver daily news digests. They naturally allow for the speed at which stories unfold, and can act as a listenable alternative to tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) for busy people who want to stay engaged with current events.
Six of the best
Keen to give microcasts a try? Here are six popular listens to get you started.
1. Shots of Science Vs
As the name suggests, Shots of Science Vs offers ‘quick hits’ of the discussions featured on the full length Science Vs podcast. Gimlet Media’s Wendy Zukerman interviews guest scientists on topics as weird and wonderful as lab-grown meat, astrology, ‘How to stop a killer asteroid’ and whether ‘ancient aliens’ may have built the pyramids. At the same time as entertaining listeners, the aim is always to “take on fads, trends and the opinionated mob” to separate fact from fiction.
2. The Open Ears Project
Described by WQXR & WNYC Studios as “part mix tape, part sonic love letter”, The Open Ears Project is a series of microcasts where people share the classical track that means the most to them. With diverse contributors including author and therapist Esther Perel, actor Tom Hiddleston and rapper Dessa, each episode offers a window into different experiences, helping us to hear new things in the old music others love.
3. 5 Minute History
This microcast offers a weekly five-minute feast for history nerds, covering diverse subjects including the history of chocolate, the history of London, the history of underwear and the history of the football World Cup. Presented by Wayne Armstrong, this fun and informative listen is already on its third series.
4. Curiosity Daily
Discovery’s award-winning microcast offers an upbeat look at the world around us, with new episodes available to download (you guessed it!) daily. It offers a unique mix of research-based life hacks, technology and science news, helping listeners to learn about everything from the workings of the human brain to the furthest corners of space.
5. 10 Things That Scare Me
Billed as “a tiny podcast about our biggest fears”, each episode of this WNYC Studios microcast features one person speaking about 10 things that scare them. Their fears might be irrational, deep-seated, philosophical or silly, but they’re always deeply human. Normally between seven and 12 minutes, each episode, say the producers, is about the speaker, but also “about you, about us, and the world we inhabit together”.
6. The Diary of a CEO: Moments
Steven Bartlett is the 28 year old founder and CEO of marketing agency Social Chain – but just a few years ago he was “a broke university dropout, living in one of the worst parts of the country, alone, with nothing but a laptop and a dream.” In his own words, his world is “intense, sometimes crazy, always challenging and always unpredictable”. His no-holds-barred podcast offers an unscripted, “direct from my diary” insight into it every week, with both a longform pod and shorter, ten minute ‘Moment’ microcast available for download.
Regus has been at the forefront of the way we work since opening its first location in 1989. Find out how we could help you embrace the new 15-Minute City concept today