Recent studies have highlighted the mental health downsides of homeworking, and “return-to-office” supporters are citing this as a key reason to limit remote working.
But according to activist Ben Marks, founder and executive director of the #WorkAnywhere Campaign, it’s vitally important that we are all empowered to work where and how we work best – which doesn’t only mean working from home.
Marks said: “When it comes to boosting employment for marginalised groups like disabled people and refugees, nothing is more effective than remote work. That’s why I believe employers have a clear moral obligation to enable remote working wherever possible. Because access to work is a fundamental human right.
“And, while there has been a lot of talk in recent years about the sudden shift towards a remote workforce exacerbating issues like burnout and loneliness, it’s important to address the distinction between remote work and working from home. Working remotely doesn’t have to mean working in isolation.
“Our research found that coworking spaces are more socially fulfilling than traditional offices, making them a tangible, data-driven solution for tackling workplace loneliness.”
Marks believes that coworking spaces could be the answer for many people that want to better balance their life and job while accessing the infrastructure, connections and resources to work effectively. But in order for this to be a truly equitable solution, companies must provide coworking stipends to cover usage costs.
“Not everyone can afford a coworking membership. And if the next generation of ‘community workspaces’ are not financially and geographically accessible for all, only a relatively small and privileged group will be able to experience the benefits. On the other hand, if we unlock the next generation of coworking hubs with stipends, we will find a radically more healthy and inclusive workspace landscape; one that’s fit for the future of work.”
Marks concluded: “Today, people with mental and physical impairments are experiencing unprecedented rates of employment as a result of remote work. This is the true impact of the remote work revolution and it’s only the beginning.
“Yes, there are challenges – such as loneliness – but the answer must not be reverting to noninclusive office working. We need to keep moving forward, to something better, and the data suggests that the next generation of coworking spaces could be this upgrade. Making these spaces accessible to all is one of the things we can do to create a future of work that actually works for everyone.”