- By 2050, 60% of employees in San Francisco may be required to work remotely at least part of the time, permanently.
- For some, this means working from home. But what happens when your home isn’t properly equipped or quiet enough for work?
- The solution, according to startup CODI, could be to work in other homes nearby.
With many offices still closed or maintaining work from home policies for the foreseeable future, many workers are finding themselves having to adjust to more permanent work from home solutions. The shifts in traffic patterns, particularly in cities, has not gone unnoticed by policy makers who are also discussing how much of these shifts will or can become permanent changes to their local communities.
Seeing reductions in carbon emissions and traffic congestion due to COVID related shut downs in cities across the world, some government agencies have begun considering how to make the environmental benefits of working from home more permanent through public policy.
Recently, the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Commission proposed a mandate that includes a requirement that large office-based employers have at least 60% of their employees work remotely on any given workday by 2050. The MTC is the regional authority serving the nine county San Francisco Bay Area in transportation planning, coordinating, and financing.
Not surprisingly, reactions to this proposal have been mixed.
Christelle Rohaut, a city planning expert and the founder of CODI, a San Francisco-based startup that offers daytime workspaces in private homes, is supportive. In speaking with Rohaut about the proposal, she believes that with the majority of office workers already working remotely right now, the timing is right for this change. “Our data shows that about 50 percent of office workers are remote right now, and more than 60 percent of those want to stay remote,” said Rohaut.
Working from home on a permanent basis, even a few days a week, is not a feasible option for many workers. Not every worker has a dedicated workspace in their homes to provide the proper environment to be productive. Some have children, other family members, or roommates that share their homes, especially in expensive housing markets like the Bay Area. Other issues include access to broadband and cellular service, and isolation and mental health concerns.
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This was the situation for Rohaut while she was a graduate student at UC Berkeley. Unable to work well at her apartment, and not within easy walking or biking distance to a shared workspace like a coworking space, she found herself working from friends’ and colleagues’ homes that did have sufficient and conducive space to work from. This experience led her to found SF-based startup CODI pre-pandemic, in 2018, to give people the opportunity to walk to work in their own neighborhoods.
“There is a home near any home, there isn’t always a coworking space near any home” —Christelle Rohaut, founder of CODI
Rohaut also discussed how working near home has the potential to benefit local neighborhood economies if more residents are spending their workdays nearby rather than commuting away to downtown districts. According to models run by CODI from their customer data, there could be a 2.5x boost to a local neighborhood economy due to the increased foot traffic from workers as they frequent their local coffee shop, retail stores, and service providers such as doctors and grocery stores. Rohaut considers this a rebalancing of value back to the neighborhoods.
In order to work from someone else’s home through a platform like CODI, both hosts and members are fully screened and insured. Members pay a recurring monthly subscription and are connected to hosts that rent part of their homes as workspace through a mobile app.
“They may be strangers initially, but you quickly realize these are your neighbors,” said Rohaut, who also sees working near home as a way to build a strong local community. Additional safety protocols have been put in place to ensure that all members and hosts are following local health regulations around wearing face masks, physical distancing, and reduced capacity.
Other government agencies have looked at alternatives to mandating work from home and instead have begun investing in solutions such as extensive increases to bike lanes to take advantage of reduced traffic congestion, striving for the Parisian model of a “15-minute city”, where everything that people need to do should be achievable within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from home.
Rohaut points out that although this is commendable and a great step in urban planning, “99% of Americans do not live within 1 mile of a downtown office. Even in cities like Austin and Chicago, no more than 2% of the metro population lives downtown… people won’t be able to walk or bike to work until the workplace is brought closer to their homes.”
Bringing the workplace so close to home that it is in a home, even someone else’s, may be one way to ensure that work from home is sustainable, whether government policies require work from home or not.