I happened to read an article on co-working spaces this morning. Long commutes are bad for employees’ mental health. I agree. If I conduct an in-person workshop or other event overseas, I would arrange to be staying in the same venue as the event. After all, if I’m working long-term in Mauritius, why fly there every week from Singapore? Cost is one thing. Housing prices within the Greenbelt area of Toronto are much higher than in suburbs outside the Greenbelt. People live outside the Greenbelt and drive into the Greater Golden Horseshoe to work. They used to, and I think they still do, COVID-19 or no. That seems to work for them. Dr Yukon Huang of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace thinks that population density in urban workspaces should increase, not decrease. If you need ten thousand people to work in offices, retail, and similar things in a city block, why not house those workers there? Expand that to include collocating schooling, medical facilities, recreation and so forth. People living there wouldn’t need to commute. Get out of the city for recreation, perhaps, but not otherwise. So, co-working spaces to the rescue! You can now have people from all over the globe working for you remotely, and they don’t have to commute.
Great opportunity for the owners of co-working spaces? Of course. Just remember that working with remote teams from all over the globe won’t replace working in-person completely. In-person working meetings involving remote teams flown in from around the globe still have to resolve issues with mutual understanding and lack of coordination. This despite video conferencing every few days while working on the same project! The phrase “But I thought…” comes up again and again when remote teams actually meet. There has to be a balance.
The article described New Zealand as an “antipodean” nation. “Antipodes” means “the other side of the globe from any given location”, as I understand it. The writer was of course coming from a UK standpoint or he might not have used the term at all. It’s like me in Singapore describing America as the “Far West” if I look across the Indian and Atlantic Oceans or perhaps America would be the “Far East” if I look across the Pacific. It’s all about mindset. “Us and them”, “Love of one’s own”, as George Friedman puts it very well.
Are we living on different planets? Are our co-workers on the other side of the world less worthy of engagement as we are? Co-working spaces are great for facilitating better places to work, but they will not make our workplaces better. Bettering our working relationships will. Perhaps it’s time to use the whole concept of “Antipodes” in a far more geographical manner than we have been. Our thinking would remain antiquated otherwise.
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