remote work, office space, flex space, work from home

Remote Work – Thriving after Covid-19

Remote work and a global pandemic are not something with which you would associate the word ‘thrive’. With 68% of Australians being forced into employment change, the new normal is far from perfect.

My husband has been working from home since March 2020 and isn’t looking to return to his offices – if they’re still operational – until July 2021. While this remarkably hasn’t ended in divorce for us, a study on the impacts of Covid-19 by Relationships Australia, (the leading national provider of relationship support services), found that 42% of people have experienced a negative change in their relationship with their partner during the last few months. Combine with that home-schooling, two working parents and an active toddler or two, it’s not surprising our relationships are suffering.

Conversely, for those living alone and forced to work from home the isolation can be overwhelming. Sure, you can see people over zoom, but online chats – whether work related or social – are generally unsatisfying.

When communicating online we miss a lot of the non-verbal signals that in a face to face meeting we would pick up on automatically. We are also seeing ourselves on screen, and much like hearing a recording of your own voice, this is rarely positive. These significant changes to the way we now live our lives has seriously impacted our mental health. When Victoria reintroduced tougher COVID-19 restrictions in July, Beyond Blue reported contacts about anxiety spiked 50% and contacts about depression doubled.

Before Covid-19 life was busy and the majority of us thrive on routine. We get up, make the bed, maybe exercise, hopefully shower, then head into the office, or take the kids to school or grab a coffee with friends. Implementing structure to our day gives us a sense of control. Few Melbournians would disagree that we’re currently out of control. This current unpredictable situation is difficult for all of us to make sense of.

So could there possibly be a silver lining? And could this glimmer of hope stem from coworking spaces?

With all that going on, community is the key to recovery. Maintaining connections and rebuilding our economy is paramount and coworking spaces will play a major role in the healing process.

Large companies have already hinted at the idea of spreading employees across multiple locations to reduce the densities built into traditional office spaces. With so many of us working remotely, employers are realising the additional value that the flexibility offered by coworking spaces provides. No long leases, no costly upkeep, plus the ability to scale up or scale down where required.

But it’s the mental health of our community that will see coworking spaces thrive. Since Covid-19 began Australian workers are craving connection to colleagues. Research shows that lighthearted exchanges with others has an uplifting effect and facilitates a sense of belonging. Forced remote work means many of us are experiencing a disconnect from colleagues and company culture. A return to coworking spaces will give workers the social contact they have longed for throughout Covid-19, while providing non-crowded, open floor plan workspaces where you can safely interact with others.

The road back to some version of normality will be long and fraught with challenges, but that doesn’t mean we won’t get there. A chat over coffee in the communal kitchen, a smile in the hallway or a collaboration across workstations will be part of our future. Coworking spaces will help provide that return to routine we’re all craving and from there we’ll begin to thrive…….

~ Sonja Ebbels

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