Before 2020, working from home was not the norm. Many employers required workers to provide a reason why they wanted to remote work, while others just did not allow it under any circumstance.
However, with the onset of COVID-19 and associated restrictions, working from home was thrust upon employees and their organization. They had no choice but to adapt, and for many remote working has brought many benefits.
As the pandemic begins to calm down with the help of vaccines, tests and drugs, employers and workers are figuring out what the future looks like. While there are some notable exceptions – JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs for example – most employers are embracing a hybrid model where employees split their time between remote locations and a company office.
In a hybrid model, employees are not forced to spend up to two hours a day and sometimes hundreds of dollars from their own pocket commuting to offices that usually in city centers.
Instead, COVID-19 brought a “choice element that allows people to decide where they want to work and how they want to work”, flexible office space company NearU founder and CEO Dan Murray tells UNLEASH.
Rethinking remote work
But, importantly for Murray and NearU, remote working is not the same as working from home.
Real choice in the new hybrid world of work isn’t simply picking between home or a central office location.
Instead, companies should give employees the option to work where suits them, and fund that. “The office will [continue] to be a factor in company’s… strategies”, notes Murray.
This is because there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the office, according to Murray. There might be some workers who want to work from home five days a week, but there might be others who want to go to the office five days.
In addition, different workspaces are right for different people. Murray continues: “Some people are introverted, some people are extroverted, so they like different environments”. For instance, extroverts may prefer to go to places that are super sociable, whereas introverts may prefer quieter office spaces.
Having the right environment to work in “is so integral to employee wellbeing”.
So NearU aims to help companies offer the best of all worlds for employees. They can offer them central office hubs across the world, or access to offices near to where employees live. The likes of Aster Group, CloudCall, and L’Oreal use NearU’s platform for all their flexible working needs.
In addition, if certain employees decide to work from home five days a week, then NearU’s pay-as-you-go model means companies will incur no costs for that worker.
“As an employer, if you want to give people flexibility and choice, then that’s what NearU does,” notes Murray.
While NearU still allows companies access to offices in the center of cities, its main differentiator in the office space market is that it also offers locations near to where people live.
Unlike competitors, NearU can give employers and their workers more choice about the types of spaces, as well as reduce the costs. “We want everyone to have really nice spaces” to work, no matter where they live, notes Murray.
Talking about NearU’s model, Murray explains it can further help resolve a major issue with remote working: isolation and loneliness.
When working near home, workers “still have the benefits of not commuting”, but also “benefit from meeting other people and being in a place where other people are working”. They can network and socialize with others who live locally but work in different companies and sectors.
Murray expands on the benefits of not commuting. It can save employees a lot of money – the average London commuter spends £5,300 a year – as well as stop them wasting precious time or getting stressed before they even get to work.
“From a wellbeing perspective, taking that commute away is a big benefit. It is nonsensical to dot hat journey, you’d be much better booking a space locally” if you don’t want to work from home, notes Murray. Remember, happy employees are productive ones.
Employers can also save money by enabling to have access to spaces outside of central locations in cities. Murray claims that some offices cost up to £800 a month in London, but on NearU the offices cost up to £50 per person and the quality of the space is just as good.
However, another major benefit, according to Murray, is the environmental impact. Spending so long commuting in cars, trains or buses is not only a time waster, but it not very sustainable. Murray believes that not commuting saves up to 1.5kg of carbon dioxide emissions per employee per day.
Data and office spaces
A final element of NearU’s offering to employers is it shares data and analytics about which employees are using what spaces to work.
“You can get insight into their [workplace] patterns”. You can see what types of offices particular employees return to – and therefore must find productive and convenient to work in.
This means companies can rethink their office hubs – could they emulate any elements from offices near their homes that employees are enjoying working at?
Having more information about your employees’ preferences is essential to successfully respond to their needs. Providing employees with choice, but also good workplaces, has never been more urgent than right now with the ongoing job market challenges, dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’.
Could offering a third option to home or office hub be the future of work?