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Combining the benefits of WFH with the advantages of a professional office space, working near home (WNH) could be the hybrid solution for working parents
The last year of remote working has often been tough for employees with families. Many workers have spent months trying to balance monitoring algebra revision with studying sales figures, or preventing toddlers from trashing bookshelves as they try to focus on important Zoom calls.
While millions of parents are used to juggling working life with caring for their families, a year of working remotely – during which homes had to become makeshift classrooms as well as offices – has left plenty of people itching to get back to the office.
It’s true that having the flexibility to work remotely has, in some ways, been a bonus for parents. Those who previously spent many hours commuting each week have enjoyed more time than ever with their children, partaking in family dinners, reading bedtime stories and sharing movie nights in a way that wasn’t always possible before. At the very least, they’re finding it easier than ever to get to nursery pick up on time.
However, unless you have a dedicated work area with an ergonomic chair, top-notch technology and reliable WiFi, the experience of WFH is qualitatively different from being in a well-equipped office. Working in the shadow of a whirring washing machine, being regularly interrupted by a dog who wants a walk or worrying about who’s going to do the weekly shop is not conducive to motivation, concentration or productivity.
Yes, working from home is convenient – but it isn’t necessarily easy or effective.
The risk of WFH burnout
According to a recent survey conducted by Great Place to Work and the Maven Clinic, an estimated 9.8 million working mothers in the USA are suffering from burnout due to the demands of juggling work and home life over the past year.
Meanwhile, a study by UrbanSitter showed that a majority of working parents say working from home is challenging, whether or not they have childcare support.
The main problem with working from home as a parent is that there are no boundaries between work and home life. Business support company NordVPN Teams conducted research into the realities of WFH in spring 2021, and reported that people who worked from home were spending longer at their desks and facing a bigger workload than before the pandemic hit.
The average length of time an employee working from home in the UK, Austria, Canada or the USA was logged on at their computer increased by around two hours per day after the Covid-19 crisis began, with UK workers increasing their working week by approximately 25%.
In short, working where you live soon becomes living at work – and this can have a significantly detrimental effect on family life.
Working near home (WNH) – the perfect hybrid?
However, there may be an answer on the doorstep. IWG – the world’s largest operator of office and flexspace, with brands including Regus and Spaces – has seen significant rises in demand as businesses embrace hybrid working for the long term. Interest in suburban and rural flexspace jumped by 32% and 20% respectively, while enquiries about flexible workspace in central London dipped.
The pandemic pushed many companies to offer more flexibility than they were used to, but Covid-19 was a catalyst – speeding up evolution towards hybrid working, rather than forcing it on a world that wasn’t ready.
Major international companies including Standard Chartered, and NTT have signed deals with IWG in 2021, and new partnerships have granted a million new users access to its coworking and flexspaces across the globe.
The hub-and-spoke model is now being adopted as the permanent basis upon which many firms will operate. It’s an approach that sees the company HQ as a centre (‘hub’) for collaborating and connecting, to which staff might travel only occasionally. The rest of the time, they have the freedom to work at locations (‘spokes’) closer to home.
Better for families, better for business
Such flexibility is a boon for parents. Using a local flexible or coworking space combines the advantages of working from home with the benefits of being based in a professional, distraction-free environment. It means downing tools at the end of the day and being properly finished, but also being able to make parents’ evening without a mad rush for the (inevitably delayed) train.
What’s more, the hybrid approach has benefits for businesses, too. From opportunities for more inclusive recruitment to improving profit margins and cutting the company’s carbon footprint, there are good reasons why executives are keen to embrace the change.
Hybrid working also dovetails with the concept of the 15-Minute City – an ideal that envisages people living in neighbourhoods where everything they need is within a 15-minute walk or cycle ride.
The brainchild of Professor Carlos Moreno of the Sorbonne, the 15-Minute City is about redesigning towns and cities so they work around people’s needs for homes, employment, leisure, education and healthcare. Adopted by authorities in locations as diverse as Paris, Seattle and Ipswich, it’s set to have a major impact as we exit the Covid-19 crisis.
Mark Dixon, IWG CEO, says that hybrid working delivers “spectacular benefits” for employers and employees alike and that, for most of us, there’ll be no going back to the old five-day, 9-to-5 routine.
“People have proved in recent months to be just as effective and productive away from company HQs, not just at home, but also in offices ‘around the corner’,” Dixon explains. “Just when local cities and towns seemed to be dying, Covid-19 may have come along and saved them. People want to work close to where they live. It’s going to stick.”
With office solutions in thousands of neighbourhoods all over the world, find out how Regus can help your employees achieve a better work/life balance