Business leaders and policy makers must be prepared to embrace a work from anywhere approach to work to support development in northern cities. This is according to Ben Marks, CEO and founder of the #WorkAnywhere Campaign, the global advocacy movement for remote and hybrid workers.
Marks believes that crucial to the development of cities and business hubs outside of London will be a new kind of infrastructure that enables all stakeholders to harness workforce digitisation, rather than be left behind. In practice, these are what he calls community workspaces: hyper-local shared work hubs in neighbourhoods, villages and towns across the country that are accessible to everyone as a public good.
“In order to truly ‘level-up’, we must be prepared to revolutionise the way people work, particularly in towns and cities in the Midlands and North of England. This starts with ensuring that everyone has access to the new social remote working infrastructure, with financial support coming from the public and private sectors,” said Marks.
“Every year graduates leave home and flock to London for work but are weighed down by high-cost, low-quality living arrangements and overcrowding. The reality is that this doesn’t need to happen, particularly since the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Community workspaces can help to tackle the digital skills and infrastructure divide in our country, by giving everyone access to a functioning “third space” in which to work, and a venue for mentoring and training to take place within our communities. Crucially, this allows new communities to form and thrive and their members are able to invest back into the local economy.”
According to data from the Office for National Statistics, at the beginning of the pandemic during April 2020, nearly half of people in employment in the UK worked from home. Since then, the technology that facilitates access to remote work has only advanced. Now, with the help of technology that already exists and is widely adopted across the UK, Marks asserts that work doesn’t have to revolve around our capital, but can instead offer people the autonomy to live in other towns and cities around Britain.
“People’s perception of the limits of hybrid working are largely based on the poorly designed version of remote work that was forced upon the population during the pandemic. Functioning remote work can not only bring about positive change within local communities, but it can also lead to societal benefits, such as lowering the cost of living, freeing up time to spend with loved ones and rebuilding communities.
“The benefits of remote work are not just economic, but they can also help to address individual challenges such as loneliness. Remote work can also create more economic opportunities for parents, carers, and people with mental and physical challenges.
“While existing coworking spaces are a positive first step, there is progress to be made in the provision of functioning remote work spaces. The next generation of community workspaces must be financially and geographically accessible, optimised to foster meaningful social connections and powered by cross-sector collaboration,” Marks concluded.