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Is the rising cost of living changing our attitudes to WFH? Is coworking part of the solution?

Updated: Jul 13, 2022


It’s depressing. Prices are rising by 9.1% a year – our highest rate of inflation for 40 years – and it’s not going to stop there! The Bank of England has already issued warnings that inflation might reach 11% within months as the prices of fuel, energy and food continue to rise and put devastating pressure on household budgets.


The average prices of gas and electricity have jumped by 53.5% and 95.5% respectively, compared with a year ago.


Fuel has also hit an all-time record this June with the average price per litre now coming in at £186.59 for petrol and £192.48 for diesel. In practical terms, this means that the average cost to fill a family car now stands at a colossal £103 for petrol, and £106 for diesel!


The rising cost of global food prices are also a major concern – the war in Ukraine has squeezed global grain production, and is a key contributor to these price surges, and of course, Brexit has played its part too. We could soon expect to see a 15% increase in food prices across the board – the Mail Online reported just recently (05.07.2022) that a 750 g pack of Lurpak spreadable has now hit an eye-watering £7.20!


The costs of raw material, household goods and furniture are on the rise.


Mortgage rates are rising.


And when we look to the Leisure, Travel & Hospitality sectors, we see even more price increases.


But wages are not rising – at least, for the majority of us.


In fact, public sector workers have been told that they will be getting real-terms pay cuts as soon as next month.


Rishi Sunak, former Chancellor of the Exchequer (recently resigned), even warned the Cabinet they will have to cut salaries of civil servants, doctors, nurses, teachers and other key workers in real terms or risk further stoking inflation and wrecking the public finances.


It really is depressing!


This is the worst cost of living crisis since the 1970’s. And, although we’re technically not in a recession – you need to have negative economic growth for it to be classified as one - it certainly is starting to feel like we’re going backwards, and there are still those that consider a recession a real possibility as growth rates start to slow down.


Working from home, seems to offer a part- solution to these rising costs.


On the one hand, by working from home, we can reduce our commuting costs and fuel consumption; but on the other, we’re increasing our energy usage and adding a hefty sum to our already high utility bills. Not sure whether one offsets the other – that will of course, depend on your commuting distance and method of travel, as well as the level of hardware you require to do your job, and of course, how long it’s plugged in.


And then there’s the lunchtime debate - instead of buying expensive meal deals because we can’t be bothered to make up a lunch box the night before, we can potentially eat more cost-effectively at home. Of course, that will depend on what you choose to do or eat – cooking a 2-course meal might come in significantly higher than just a cheese sandwich.


But on the whole, it would seem that working from home has the potential to considerably reduce our outgoings.


So, is this cost of living crisis about to rebalance the WFH discussion?


Perhaps.


Understandably, many employers want their staff back in the office, after all, office space doesn’t come cheap and rows of empty desks are a constant reminder of a poor Return on Investment (ROI).


The obvious answer would be to reduce these overheads, but perhaps this is not as easy as it sounds – you still need a head-office, don’t you?


There are of course some organisations that don’t have one (although, I expect these are in the minority), and simply hire out rooms for meetings, but generally speaking most of them do.


According to a recent survey of over 1,000 employers by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), many of these employers are preparing to cut pay or benefits for staff wanting to work from home as a way to ‘coerce’ people back into the office, after their attempts to incentivise them following the lifting of lockdown restrictions, failed.


Whether this is legal or indeed ethical, is a whole different debate, and not one I’m going to get into right now.


Equally, there are employers who are happy to embrace working from home, or at least a hybrid solution, so part office, part home-working as they recognise the value of a healthy work-life balance and the impact this has on productivity. Many see WFH as a way to motivate and empower their employees. But many still do not.


So, what sits at the root of this aversion to WFH?


Visibility versus Productivity


I can recall countless discussions with past employers on this topic – just because you can see me, doesn’t mean I’m working, and the only real measure of my productivity is my output. But of course, many people are not productive at home because they are easily distracted. Personally, I don’t fall into this group but I also recognise there are many who do, and they possibly should work in an office environment – it’s all about recognising your limitations and acting accordingly.


Separation from work and home is critical to good mental health


There are many that argue that commuting to work helps your work-life balance. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Rail Industry confirms that commuting is good for your mind, and interestingly, for your waistline too!


From the 3,000 people who participated in this survey, 45% said they were more productive in the office, 50% said they snacked more when working from home and 43% said they were easily distracted at home with household chores, deliveries and longer lunches being the biggest culprits.


Commuting creates space in your head, and allows you to mentally detach from the stressors of home and work. I do remember really enjoying my 45-mintue commute when I worked at the Business Continuity Institute in Reading. By the time I got home, my mind was cleared of the stresses and problems of the day, and I felt alive and invigorated, and was firing all cylinders again.


Having separation from work and home is important.


Of course, you can re-create this at home by living and working in different places if you have the space, but that’s not always possible and often they can become very intertwined and muddled. I currently work in my dining room, but when it comes to dinner time, I can’t bear the thought of sitting at my dining table. On the days I work, I prefer to eat at the kitchen bar or with my dinner plate precariously balanced on my knee in the living room. Something I never did when I worked in an office.


And then there is the wellbeing issue


People need to socialise, they need human interaction to thrive and grow. Of course, technology is offering some good substitutes, TEAMs being one of them, but they are not the same as grabbing a coffee with someone or heading to the chillout zone for a quick catch-up with your team. You miss out on office friendships, or that quick, spontaneous drink after work with your colleagues. Working from home has the very real potential to be quite a lonely experience, and you need to work hard to make sure it isn’t.


Finding your mojo


How easy is it to lie in just a little bit longer, or go to work still wearing your pyjamas – after all, it’s only the top half that appears on the screen? When the social norms that we are faced with at work suddenly disappear, it can be really hard to get your mojo to conform when you’re working from home.


I remember the first time I was made redundant. I made the conscious decision to stick to my working routine. I got up early, got showered, did my hair and make-up and put on nice clothes and started my job searching/application process at the same time as I would have started work. It made me feel good about myself, and helped me to stay focussed and positive.


Lockdown changed everything


I still started work on time, but less care and attention were paid to how I looked or what I wore unless I had a meeting planned for that day, and even then, as long as I had a decent top on, it was okay – the fact that I may have had a pair of scruffy jeans on was irrelevant because nobody could see what was going on underneath. And I wasn’t alone – I still vividly remember a few giggles as people confessed to still being in pyjamas. You gradually saw this general ‘decline’ creeping in across the whole team, and as well as a drop in motivational levels to match, which was quite disconcerting and challenging for me as a Team Leader.


And what about creativity?


There is evidence that suggests that working from home has a negative impact on our creative thinking ability, and that it’s much easier to be creative and innovative when you are able to physically be with and bounce ideas off other people. I know that I really miss this part of office working. It’s a kind of magic that you simply can’t re-create on your own or even virtually with others – that extra sparkle is missing.


But thankfully there is another option – coworking


Coworking combines the best of both worlds – the flexibility of WFH and the professionalism of office-working.


Coworking creates an environment that supports both creativity and productivity.


Coworking spaces meet our need for social interaction by creating opportunities to meet and connect with new people, allowing us to network and build friendships.


Coworking spaces provide real separation from work and home, and give us a reason to get up, get ready, and ‘go to work’.


And in terms of cost-effectiveness, well that all depends on the coworking space you use and how often – prices can range from £200 / month upwards of £400 and more. However, you CAN offset them against your tax bill as they are 100% claimable as a rental cost, which adds to their attractiveness and takes the sting out of the cost.


What makes the MCN coworking hubs that extra bit special?


Now MCN coworking hubs REALLY DO provide a cost-effective solution to coworking – our subscription fees are some of the lowest around, starting at just £20 / year, equivalent to around £2.50 per week (about the price of a cup of coffee) rising to just £120 / year for full-time usage.


And then there’s the fantastic community spirit within our hubs, which will enable you to strengthen your bond with your local community and help you to feel and stay connected.


And if you’re based on camp, you don’t even have to commute, just walk or cycle.


To find out more go to www.militarycoworking.uk/hubs


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