Millions invested to create third spaces for remote workers

A new 'work near home' initiative has been launched to give remote workers community spaces where they can work alongside others.

Also known as 'third places' or 'third spaces', the project aims to bring neighbourhood workspaces to high streets around the UK, offering remote workers an alternative to working from home while avoiding a lengthy commute. 

Patch, the startup responsible, has received £3 million from high-profile investors including Peter Roberts, founder of PureGym, Emma Woods, former CEO of Wagamama, Jeremy Sanders, co-founder of Coco di Mama and Wendy Becker, former CEO of Jack Wills.

New sites will open up in High Wycombe and Twickenham this summer, with one venue already open in Chelmsford. 

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The spaces will also act as community hubs for local cultural events and creative initiatives, such as podcast recordings, networking events, pottery workshops and makers' markets.

Gemma Dale, co-founder of The Work Consultancy and lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University Business School, said working near home could satisfy many of remote workers' needs, enabling them to commute less without a sense of isolation. 

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Remote work does not have to be either office or home, there are many other options which this suggestion highlights. Part of what we know drives the desire to work from home is the ability to commute less, which this idea serves. 

“It would also support employees in meeting their social needs, reducing some of the isolation some feel when working remotely.  Similarly, it will enforce work-home boundaries for those that need a lot of separation of work from home life for their wellbeing.” 

Dale says while HR should be excited by the idea of neighbourhood workspaces, they should also be cautious of issues like data security and advise employees accordingly.

Liz Sebag-Montefiore, co-founder of consultancy 10eighty, warned HR the idea could give rise to similar challenges to those presented by working from home.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “From the employers’ perspective: managers can't see you, culture is watered down, training, networking, team building and socialising are adversely impacted. Although all these can be overcome if well managed.”

Sebag-Montefiore said there are a number of benefits to the flexibility this solution could provide, particularly for younger workers

She said: “Providing flexibility to employees who need to work remotely is a good thing and benefits younger workers who may not have suitable working spaces at home and others who dislike the isolation of working from home. These workers may find a co-working space congenial and an improvement in their productivity.”