An office where you live

1_maghomepage.jpg finds out about a new service offering a network of local hubs for those caught short by Olympic travel chaos.

With the Olympics on the way, many organisations are thinking of how to keep their business running smoothly if the London transport system is affected.

Serial entrepreneur and father of two Tom Ball is ahead of the rest. He realised early on that people were likely to have big problems getting into London for the Olympics, but he understood that working from home is not always an easy option for Londoners who may live in cramped conditions or have children around.

He knew there were several organisations offering hubs where people could work locally, but he figured bringing together a network of affordable service providers would give people greater choice and allow them to find the perfect space for them.

Tom’s aim is to get a million people working near home one day per week, saving 100 million commuting hours every year.

"The idea is that you should have a hub that is as near to you as your local library," says Anne Cantelo, a spokeswoman. "So if, for instance, you get stuck getting into work you can just book an alternative nearer home. It’s great for parents who face the problem of getting stuck in the traffic and not being home in time to pick up from nursery."

The service is called NearDesk and is described as "like an Oyster card for office space". It works with businesses and individuals. Individuals register for a card which gives them access to the network. They have to pay a £20 registration fee, but no extra charges are added onto the bill for hiring an office space which costs around £50 a day. The bill either goes to the individual or to their company and includes all costs, including cups of coffee, in one bill.

NearDesk is working with employers as well as targeting individual workers. Anne says that there are three reasons for employers to consider the service. One is for business continuity during periods of transport stress; another is to cut office overheads; and the other is to promote a greener environment.

Studies show that 39% of businesses in London had been adversely affected by security-related transport delays compared with 24% nationally and most businesses believe that staff productivity is reduced by commuting problems, costing them an estimated £1.19 billion a year.

Anne adds that travel to the office represents employers’ biggest carbon footprint. "If employers encourage their employees to work one day from home, that would save a lot on their carbon footprint and the cost savings from cutting office overheads would be huge," she says. "And then there’s the cost if, for instance, parents leave because they want to find work nearer to home and cut their commute time. Companies need to keep their best staff as they will deliver them the most profit."

Anne, who is a mum of two and a grandmother, adds that another cost to factor in on the commute is the extra childcare. She commuted for four hours a day when her children were younger. "If parents finished at six and were at home five minutes later it would be a huge incentive," she said.

Due to the demands on the service expected during the Olympics it will only be available for whole day bookings. However, afterwards people will be able to book an office for just a few hours if, for instance, they need it for a meeting.

At the moment, the service, which launched on 2 July, is only available in the greater London area to coincide with the Olympics, but it is planned to extend further and further afield in the near future.

*NearDesk is offering Workingmums’ readers a £20 discount on their first booking if they type in the code "workingmums" when they register.


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