Creating a Better, Flexible New Normal

April 2, 2021 7:03 PM
By Dale Roberts

Dale Roberts with computerDale Roberts, candidate for St Johns and Woking Southwest calls for local co-working hubs to offer greater flexibility for local and London businesses and choice for commuters.

The subject of commuting has cropped up more than once as we emerge from the third lockdown and it's a subject close to our hearts in Woking. A friend posted, on a professional social media site, that candidates were declining interviews for remote-only jobs. They wanted to be in a busy office. The post attracted a lot of comments advocating both for and against remote working.

On the one hand, many argue that it makes little sense for us all to spend hours commuting on the same trains, queuing in the same coffee shops only to arrive at a desk and start our day on email. Likewise, businesses are no longer limiting their search for sometimes specific skills to a 30-mile radius and are looking to put the £10K+ cost to put a person at a desk in London to better use. On the other hand, not all of us can work from home. Some work requires us to be on a site or to be in an office regularly collaborating with others. And, importantly, there are many households who don't have the space for it to be everything to everyone.

What has changed permanently though is attitudes. The pandemic has put paid to outdated notions that we can only work from a specific place, that virtual working is less effective, and that people cannot be trusted to work remotely. Businesses and their employees have changed, and local government need to adapt too. For example, in Woking I strongly advocate for coworking hubs. Shared physical spaces that allow both local and London businesses to offer a place for those that need the facilities and focus of an office but with a shorter local commute when a longer commute is unnecessary.

Ultimately, we will all decide, and it will be a balance of the long-term needs of businesses and their staff and the specifics of the situation. But the choice ahead of us is not binary. It's not either work from home or work from a single office. That day has gone. The 'genie is out of the bottle'. Workplaces can and will be a variety of spaces. Some busy and central, some quieter and more local, some on our doorstep and one perhaps in the corner of a kitchen.

So let's make Woking a place for what lies ahead. Let's create a place that is inventive about the use of office space whilst strengthening the community and building a town that will adapt to the flexible future of work.