Remote working: a chance for America’s smaller cities to shine?

Our latest WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing looks at a US competition to develop a Remote Work Hub, an Australian project for green light rail and the global rebirth of the Slow movement

One of the more intriguing side effects of the work-life upheaval caused by the pandemic is where a more distributed and remote workforce will work in the future. Many homes have proved inadequate during lockdown in terms of connectivity and space – and many city offices remain out of reach due to the long commutes on crowded public transport that are required.

Is there an opportunity here for a new type of local live-work facility that bridges the gap? American residential operator Common evidently thinks so – it has launched a request for design proposals for a new project, the Remote Work Hub, which aims to provide housing and workspaces for a new economic reality.

‘Remote workers who may have stayed in high-rent cities are now looking elsewhere…’

Public and private sector organisations are invited to submit their respective sites as a suitable location to develop a Remote Work Hub. In turn, Common will bring consumer demand, operational capabilities, design insights and capital relationships to execute its plan and make the new hub a reality.

The winner will be the site that best allows renters to live and work in the places they call home. Assisting Common in the judging will be an expert jury, including former Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter and architect and academic Vishaan Chakrabarti. The winning proposal is expected to be announced in January 2021.

Common believes that remote workers who may have stayed in high-rent cities prior to Covid-19 for the proximity to peers and desirable neighbourhoods are now looking elsewhere, presenting an opportunity for smaller cities in the US to capitalise economically and culturally from these workforce changes.

According to Common, the Remote Work Hub’s goal is to design, develop and build an innovative new addition to the residential landscape, and also to attract talent and economic vitality to cities that are often on the ‘outside looking in’.

‘Cities that were passed over during the tech-powered economic growth of the past two decades have a unique opportunity right now to capture a piece of the pie,’ explains Common founder and chief executive Brad Hargreaves. ‘The future of economic development is about making cities appealing to workers, not just recruiting major employers. By issuing a request for proposals, we’re seeking diverse voices, sites and cities to make a big impact on how we will live and work in the future, rather than returning back to normal after Covid-19.’

Interested parties can attend an informational session organised by Common on 2 September 2020, and respond with an Expression of Interest by 16 October 2020.

The aim is to build a Remote Working Hub by 2023.

On the green track

More evidence of the greening of Australia’s cities in the wake of the pandemic: in New South Wales, one kilometre of ‘green track’ will form a key attraction of the Parramatta Light Rail that will connect Westmead to Carlingford via the Parramatta central business district (CBD). The first 12-metre piece of green track, which involves planting grass or low plants between and beside light rail tracks, has been laid as part of a 12-month prototype testing process. Green track contributes to increased biodiversity, noise reduction and urban cooling, which are helpful outcomes for the people who live and work in the local area. The Parramatta Light Rail is set to open in 2023. Read more about the project here.

Augmented work webinar

Don’t forget to tune into our next live WORKTECH webinar which takes place on 1 September 2020, featuring Paul Edwards of Australian developer Mirvac in conversation with Jeremy Myerson of WORKTECH Academy. The webinar looks at the future of augmented work in the era of AI, robotics, machine learning and smart buildings. If humans and machines are set to work more closely together, what does this mean for workplace design and organisational change? The webinar will launch a new research report jointly produced by Mirvac and WORKTECH Academy entitled ‘Augmented Work: How New Technologies are Reshaping the Global Workplace’. More details here.

In Praise of Slow

The Slow movement has suffered in the ramped-up economic frenzy of the past decade – but the global lockdown gave it the chance to shine again as people re-evaluated their priorities. One of the most persuasive champions of the Slow movement, Carl Honore, best-selling author of In Praise of Slow, was a keynote speaker at the WORKTECH London conference in 2015.  We thought the WORKTECH community might enjoy being reminded of his message five years ago. In this exclusive WORKTECH Academy video interview, Honore explains why we should all do less and think more in order to de-accelerate our speedaholic working lives. Watch the interview below.

Last chance for design ideas

Finally, it’s your last chance to submit radical design ideas on the future of work to an open competition jointly organised by the London Design Biennale and Chatham House, the prestigious Royal Institute of International Affairs in the UK. The competition brief asks: ‘What do we want from work in the 21st century? How do we create a wider purpose to work? Covid-19 has put existing, long-standing systems in flux and presented a time-bound opportunity to recast work as a social activity, as well as an economic activity.’ The deadline is 31 August 2020. Details here.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional live conference series paused due to the coronavirus pandemic. This edition is posted 26 August 2020.
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