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Hybrid, Remote, and Alone? Workers’ New Freedoms Present Further Need for Flexible Workspaces

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On a professional level alone, it is impossible to overstate the magnitude of change we have experienced over the past few years. So accustomed to the everchanging landscape, we have failed to recognize just how far we have traveled – a professional revolution has passed us by.  

Since the onset of the pandemic, home working, hybrid working, and flexible working have all become commonplace. While there was certainly a movement towards these trends before the pandemic, undoubtedly, they were accelerated by the need to work from home amid lockdowns.  

Now, a significant proportion of employees are empowered to work with at least a degree of flexibility in their week. The freedom to choose a working pattern that fits around the complicated demands of life is a monumental milestone for workers’ rights.

Despite the benefits, it presents new challenges. With workers now spending sizable parts of the working week away from colleagues, employees can go hours, days, or weeks without genuine social interaction. More simply, employees’ latest battle is against loneliness.  

The consequences of loneliness are detrimental to individual mental health. But so too are the subsequent impacts on the team; while an effective team unlocks and applies the best talents of all its members, a suffering and emotionally distant workforce will have regressive effects on innovation and work culture.

Though, more quantifiably, the consequences of struggling mental health and broken teams are clear to businesses: falling productivity. It takes no great mind to follow the subsequent impacts on profitability and, therefore, survivability.  

Already, more change is afoot to prevent this crippling threat to the soul of businesses; hybrid workers are now planning their office days around collaboration and the social calendar of their professional network. But with such damming consequences, employers must begin to take preventative action, recognizing their best interest is to support employees in the fight against loneliness. Flexible workspaces offer a powerful solution.  

Bridging the gap between remote workers 

More frequently, businesses are searching further afield to find the right employee, resulting in a growing number of fully remote workers. Naturally, with physical distance setting an unfillable gap, remote workers tend to be most vulnerable to feelings of loneliness.  

When considering a workplace, we tend to think of the physical attributes – the layout, facilities, furniture – obviously, these offer little support for remote workers. But often overlooked are all the modern features that a first-class flexible workspace can offer.

Namely, this includes the implementation of management apps, utilized across a shared workspace. Such apps create exciting networking opportunities, facilitating new connections. In addition, a dual-focus as a digital bulletin of events and announcements will  attract distant workers to make it in occasionally. While these benefits are shared by all, they are especially important in bringing the office experience to remote workers.  

With some staff operating on a fully remote basis, most businesses now realize that their office capacity no longer needs to meet their total payroll register. Of course, this is a pragmatic cost-saving measure. However, it can cause problems on occasions when a full gathering of the troops is required, such as full staff meetings or training days. Not to mention, the last thing an employee wants after an unusually long journey into the office is to arrive without a workstation available.

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Flexible workspaces provide businesses with the adaptability they need to accommodate all their staff on those special days. With on demand booking of private offices, the ability to book meeting rooms of various capacities, and on-demand function rooms, flexible workspaces ensure that the whole team feels welcomed.  

Additionally, workers are becoming gradually spread around the globe. This has been driven, primarily, by the increasingly global outlook of businesses and the growing appetite of individuals for the freedom to travel. With hybrid working now acknowledged as a viable working operation, many employees are now asking themselves, why not work a couple of months abroad?

In any event, such workers will obviously not be able to join their team except in the most exceptional circumstances; such employees could greatly benefit from a coworking or hotdesking membership at a local flexible workspace whereby they can enjoy all of the aforementioned social benefits, if only a little further apart.  

A photo of people working from a coworking space.

‘Wait, what days are you in again?’ 

Less obviously, loneliness is also becoming more prevalent for in-person and hybrid workers. With employees determining their own hybrid working patterns, social interactions at work are now probability-based encounters, especially in smaller teams. Consequently, the onus on workspaces to foster a social and collaborative environment has never been greater. 

Functional meeting rooms and inviting coworking spaces are now essential workspace components, providing collaborative environments where teams can enhance their productivity and strengthen relationships.  

Strong working relationships have always been essential; not only do they help create a positive atmosphere but facilitate productive teamwork, progression and innovation. However, in an age of less direct social interactions, such relationships are even more important but they will never mature if only invested in while working.

That’s why flexible workspaces place such focus on community-led design, with inviting communal facilities like open-plan lounges and kitchens. This helps set a more relaxed atmosphere, promoting more genuine human interaction among colleagues. Moreover, they present opportunities to develop new connections with employees from other businesses enjoying the shared workspace, offering users the opportunity to weave a wide professional net based only minutes from their desks.  

The emergence of hybrid working into the professional zeitgeist has fundamentally changed working lives, unlocking freedoms that grant the ability to work around our lives, rather than live around our work. Yet, it has also enlarged the distance between us – social interactions have become intertwined with the chance overlap of working patterns.

For employees, the consequence is a workforce wrestling with emerging feelings of loneliness. For employers, there is a threat to productivity and business culture. Flexible workspaces, although unable to bridge physical distance, are uniquely designed to encourage collaboration and connection. Their adaptable size means that everyone can be included despite the often-varying team size across specific days.

With state-of-the-art apps that promote networking and socialization, their reach even extends to fully remote workers. Businesses looking to combat feelings of loneliness are thus presented with an effective solution.  

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About Author

Wybo Wijnbergen is the co-founder and CEO of infinitSpace, a company that enables office landlords to easily create and run a flexible office space under their brand and conditions. Prior to launching infinitSpace, Wybo was a Managing Director at WeWork, where he helped oversee the company’s expansion across Western Europe.

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