Daily Mail

So sick of working from home we’re paying for an office!

How a growing army are ditching their dressing gowns and putting on their suits for the company of complete strangers

- By Helena Kelly h.kelly@dailymail.co.uk

AlMoST two months ago, the Government dropped its ‘work from home’ guidance. Yet the anticipate­d flood back to the office has so far fallen flat. Many businesses are encouragin­g staff to continue remote working and others have shut their offices entirely.

And amid all the closures and changing guidance, a lucrative market has emerged: pay-as-you-go office spaces.

Tens of thousands of people have signed up to these networks, having grown weary of working from home.

Co-working spaces up and down the country say membership numbers have exploded, many doubling or even tripling since before the pandemic.

Young people appear to be leading the charge, sometimes paying fees of more than £100 a month to escape from their cramped flatshares.

but it puts them in the ludicrous position of effectivel­y paying to go to work, either because their employer has shut their office for good or because restrictio­ns have left them unable to go in when they please.

Nick Donnelly, who runs the national co-working network WorkClub, has seen user numbers almost triple from prepandemi­c levels. Most of the demand spilled in after May when indoor venues were allowed to reopen.

He says: ‘It’s individual workers who are coming to us and asking for a place to work.

‘The average age of our users is between 28 and 36. I think they just want an alternativ­e.’

WorkClub is one of the more affordable co-working spaces, with rates starting at £9 a day alongside the option of cheaper monthly membership­s.

It works with a range of venues which advertise themselves on their app. users may pay more for perks such as bottomless tea and coffee or more space, while basic spaces offer just a desk and wifi.

Tony Heyden, who manages Fruitworks in Canterbury and london, says his membership has also doubled since before the pandemic and demand is now so strong there is a waiting list for those hoping to sign up.

He says: ‘The age range of our members has crept up and we’ve noticed there are a lot more women using our spaces than before the pandemic.

‘Our members used to be mainly tech companies but now we see people from all background­s — including a seamstress who brings in her sewing kit.’

Subscripti­ons to Fruitworks begin at £60 a month, which allows members to spend one day a week in the office. It costs £80 a month to spend three days a week in the office and £125 a month for access to space five days a week.

Included in the membership is guaranteed office space, free tea and coffee, use of the printing and photocopyi­ng machines and discounts to local businesses.

Huckletree, which offers ‘residentia­l desks’ for as much as £300 a month, tells a similar story. It saw a 250 pc increase in the number of people accessing its deals between April-August 2020 and the same period in 2021.

The sudden surge in demand for flexible workspaces has encouraged global leader WeWork to alter its offerings to keep up.

Last month the company launched ‘WeWork on Demand’, which allows workers to book office space for a minimum of £45 a day — or £15 an hour for a meeting room — across five uk cities.

But there are concerns that employees are having to pay for an office space which they could reasonably expect their employer to provide.

This is especially worrying as those most likely to prefer working outside the home are younger workers on lower salaries. Workplace expert and social historian Dr Eliza Filby says: ‘It seems unfair employees are paying sometimes more than double their phone bill to access a workplace. Companies have an obligation to provide the conditions and equipment through which people can operate and work.

‘If somebody feels they cannot work at home, employers should either be helping to pay for their office space or paying them more so they can afford a nicer home.

‘It’s a big grey area, though, as Hr can say “well, it’s your choice”. Danielle Parsons, employment partner at Irwin Mitchell, says there could be a rise in legal disputes over where employees intend to work.

‘Younger workers in particular may be renting accommodat­ion in small flats which were never designed for remote working.

‘Many employees do want to “return to normal” and go back to office working, so this type of dispute could yet become a feature of employment law.’

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom