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Déjà Leonard is a copywriter and freelance journalist based in Calgary.
As we begin to return to some semblance of normalcy – and the office – many companies and employees are wading through the murky waters of what “return to work” really looks like. Will employees be allowed to work from home full-time? Will they be expected to come back into the office? But there’s other questions gaining traction: Can employees work in a co-working space – and will companies pay for it?
Some companies such as JPMorgan Chase already have a solid set of rules, where specific teams can schedule work-from-home days from Tuesday through Thursday. Technology company Sabre Corp., which is headquartered in Texas, has significantly reduced its campus space and plans to bring about 25 per cent of employees back on site at least three days a week.
However, others, including Calendly, an Atlanta-based manufacturer of scheduling software, are giving their people the option of whether to come into the office, and are providing staff with memberships to co-working spaces – a trend that seems to be the perfect fit for employees who don’t want to work from home, but also don’t want to endure the dreaded, often time-consuming commute to the office.
It makes a lot of sense. While working from home holds immense appeal for many, it can also be distracting and more difficult to create healthy boundaries between work life and home life.
As chief executive officers try to weigh what they think is best for the business against what employees are demanding, it’s creating a new type of tension. And in some cases, employers will need to bend, or they’ll lose out on top-level talent.
According to a recent survey from insurance company Prudential, 42 per cent of current U.S. remote workers say that they would leave their job if their company did not continue to offer remote work options, signalling a potential war for talent.
At the same time, popular co-working spaces such as WeWork are preparing for a surge in interest as COVID-19 subsides.
Rebecca Pan, co-owner of the San Francisco co-working space Trellis, had this to say about the rise in demand: “Before the pandemic, it was that you were in the office full-time. I don’t think this will be the same in the future. People really appreciate flexibility. From a co-working point of view, fewer people go to a corporate campus, but [instead go] home or [to] Trellis.”
Should employers pay for it? Why not. On top of attracting a wider range of quality talent, co-working spaces save companies money by reducing the need for office space and common employee amenities. Plus, employees with access to co-working spaces are performing better than those without it, a U.S. workplace survey suggests.
At the same time, it seems that even if firms won’t pay, the majority of employees are more than willing to cover the cost of co-working spaces themselves if it means they can have more flexibility. A report by WeWork and independent research firm Workplace Intelligence indicates that 64 per cent of American employees are willing to pay out of their own pocket for access to office space to support hybrid work.
So, as we move closer toward “return to work,” we’ll likely see the conversation broaden to include the possibility of co-working as more employers balance the needs of the business and all of their employees with diverse needs.