How does racism change who we are and how we behave in white spaces?


Alyssa’s side was winning the match being played on the oval at her primary school when it happened.

“Our team had just got the flag, got everyone out of jail, and then I turned around and this other kid said to me: ‘You dirty, cheating, little N-word’,” she remembers.

The then-10-year-old was instantly disarmed.

“It was such a mild activity … We were playing capture the flag. It was primary school,” Alyssa continues slowly: she’s still processing what happened that day.

“It’s scary how easy it was for him to say it, in such a hateful way — over a game.”

The now-17-year-old says that was the end of it.

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The challenge of making public spaces safer for women


Belinda Lo and Olivia Greenwell meet once a week to go running at sunrise along the Merri Creek, in Melbourne’s inner north.

They love the greenery, the birds and the quiet.

“It’s an oasis in the city,” Ms Lo said.

But they would never do it alone.

“The reality of women in our public spaces is we’re actually not safe to run alone,” Ms Lo said.

“We’re always having to look over our shoulder because of potential predatory behaviour of people hiding in the bushes, potentially going to assault us or harm us in some way.

“It’s the reality that girls and women grow up with, and we all know it.”

The local council commissioned a report to examine safety issues along the Merri Creek at Coburg, where there was an alleged rape in 2019.

Monash University’s XYX Lab, which studies gender-sensitive design practices, surveyed more than 800 people, and found although people loved the area’s green space, there were issues with perceptions of safety.

“Since the [alleged] attack, women have been absenting themselves from the creek either permanently, or at certain times of the day, or under certain conditions,” the report found.

It said women experience public spaces differently to men, and often change their behaviour, doing things like walking with a friend or dog to protect themselves from violence.

It found environmental solutions alone would not fix the problem, and more needed to be done to address violence against women.

It suggested adding things like park benches and scheduling community events, to attract people to the area.

For Ms Greenwell, that would make a huge difference.

She said, during the recent COVID-19 lockdowns, she felt safe enough to run by herself, sometimes even at night.

“There were people around, walking their dogs, and it felt safe because there were a lot of people around,” she said.

The Deputy Mayor of Moreland, Mark Riley, said that was something council would look at closely.

“The more people there, the more comfortable you can feel sometimes rather than feeling alone, so it’s important to activate the space,” he said.

The Merri Creek includes several underpasses, where the path crosses under busy roads.

Many women told the researchers they wanted more lighting, with some describing the underpasses as “creepy”.

“Darkness is a strong trigger for raising levels of caution and fear, such that many women curtail their after-dark activities,” the report found.

However, a number of people were also opposed to lighting that would disturb the animal life.

The report called for lighting in key areas, like the underpasses and footbridges, but found CCTV was unlikely to work, given the large area of the creek.

Like many trails along creeks, parts of the path along the Merri Creek are quite narrow or crumbling.

“Paths that are narrow force women closer to strangers who might grab at them or make unwelcome comments,” the report found.

The report also suggested adding more routes in and out of the parkland, so women could escape potentially threatening situations.

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How schools and universities are luring students back to campus with bold new spaces


There’s a revolution brewing behind the scenes at the nation’s schools and universities.

It’s not so much about overthrowing the existing political order, however. It’s much more about the real estate – a dramatic change in style from institutional to commercial, where places of learning increasingly mirror modern workspaces.

“We’re seeing the largest qualitative shift we’ve ever seen before in the educational space,” said architect Hamilton Wilson, managing director of specialist firm Wilson Architects. “All the spaces in both universities and schools are rapidly changing.

“It’s all about better learning, individually and collectively, and about joining the dots and creating cross-disciplinary spaces that enable the next generation to find extraordinary new things that haven’t been invented yet.”

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Educational institutions have been physically changing for the past few years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the thinking about the need for improvements.

With overseas students providing much-needed funds for universities and other tertiary colleges, there’s now heated competition to woo them back once the international borders re-open. Since domestic students have become increasingly used to remote learning, they need to be lured back too by much more attractive physical spaces.

At the independent Ravenswood School for Girls on Sydney’s upper north shore, architectural firm BVN delivered a senior learning centre for year 12 pupils, which opened in May last year to coincide with students’ return to school after weeks of studying online.

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The Ravenswood School for Girls senior learning centre opened when students returned to school in May last year. Photo: Tom Ferguson

It was designed to be flexible enough to accommodate traditional stand-and-deliver models and recent – and future – styles of teaching. It also had to provide a “home” for the senior students, where they could feel a personal connection to their school, have coffee and chat with their peers and study after hours.

“Teaching styles used to be generic from school to school, with long corridors and eight-metre by eight-metre classrooms off them, and they’d all be the same,” BVN principal Philip Rossington said. “But now schools are looking at how they want to deliver their teaching, and wanting their buildings to reflect their own particular philosophies.”

There’s a variety of seating for students, smaller “huts” to give them a sense of enclosure and casual tiered learning spaces in a project that’s now been shortlisted for an Australian Institute of Architects (NSW) award. It has a good precedent too. In 2012, BVN won the Sir John Sulman Medal for public architecture for an earlier building at Ravenswood.

Another much-praised project has been Melbourne’s Monash University Building CL28, the Centrally Managed Teaching and Maths Learning Centre, by architects Kennedy Nolan. Originally a windowless computer facility in an old 1960s building, it’s now been transformed into a variety of formal and flexible informal teaching spaces, student lounges and pods, which students can use as suits them – whether they’re quiet introverts or sociable extroverts.

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This area at Monash University was transformed from a windowless computer lab to a variety of teaching and studying spaces. Photo: Derek Swalwell

Besides completely overhauling the amenity of the 1000 square metre building, there are also several fun, playful elements. These include graph-paper gridlines on internal glazing and whiteboards on which students can write out their equations, glazed facades with geometry and maths symbols, an entry portal, which is an abstract of the pi symbol, and maths patterns on the carpet.

“Our task was to create an exciting place for people to come and learn, gather and teach, with views to the large nature garden and established trees outside, and from the outside in,” said Kennedy Nolan director Rachel Nolan.

“I think now universities are very clearly thinking about the users and how to keep them on the campus longer. You need a great campus because students often have to travel a long way to get there, so you need to make it much more attractive for students and the teachers.”

The firm also worked on a school in Melbourne’s north-east, the Research Primary School, a place of dilapidated facilities on a steeply sloping site. A visible and welcoming entrance to the school was established, external areas were clearly defined, and a contained playing and learning space was built, with direct access to teaching spaces and a central quadrangle with a broad verandah to give the school a heart.

“Architecture in education can be very rewarding as lots of people are being exposed to good design and are benefitting from it,” Ms Nolan said. “And it’s a great part of a child’s education to be exposed to good design in buildings and interiors.”

As education specialists, Wilson Architects see schools and colleges as having to react to the changing work landscape and update their facilities to better equip their students with the skills to succeed in a rapidly changing world, particularly post COVID-19.

It designed the $30 million JCU Ideas Lab, a centre of innovation at James Cook University’s Nguma-bada campus in Cairns, in Far North Queensland, jointly funded by the university, the Queensland government and the federal government. It opened in July 2020.

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The $30 million Ideas Lab at James Cook University’s Nguma-bada campus in Cairns. Photo: Andrew Watson

“Educational institutions are becoming more responsive to an economic climate where jobs are no longer as prescriptive as they used to be,” Mr Wilson said. “We were brought up in a period where everything was tailored to training you for at least being knowledgeable in one area, and you go out into the world, and that’s it.

“But now students need to be masters of many things and navigate the world, and education has been looking at broader ways to provide those skillsets. It’s moved away from content being king to being about how to navigate people and places and technology. It’s so much more complex and nuanced.”

The JCU Ideas Lab is an interconnected three-storey edifice with natural light, flexible, reconfigurable floor plates, retreat spaces, demonstrative spaces and open spaces that all visually connect to an internal and exterior landscape – much like some of the best new workspaces today.

The facade looks like origami, a metaphor for innovation, while the whole of the building is wrapped in a “folded” Teflon fabric, which takes on creases and hard chines that modulate mass and form. Large format projectors cast images onto the screen at night to further animate the facade.

“Of course, all the technology allows us now to work remotely, but we still need to connect physically,” Mr Wilson said. “COVID allowed us to change our processes to learn and teach and work online, but humans still need fundamentally to come together and connect, and some of these new buildings are really inviting for that. “

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Calls for pregnant women to be allocated dedicated parking spaces in Brisbane


Wellington Point woman Sophie Pasinski lodged a petition with the council, after struggling to find parking over Christmas time while heavily pregnant.

“I was that silly person who left Christmas shopping to the very last week, and I was at Carindale and it took me about 35 minutes to find a park,” Ms Pasinski told ABC Radio Brisbane.

“Having to park miles and miles away it was just a bit ridiculous trying to waddle in.”

Ms Pasinski said some people suggested she use the allocated prams and carers parking sites, but felt uncomfortable using them when pregnant.

“… If you do park there you get those looks from those mums who do have prams and they might give you that look and make you feel a bit bad,” she said.

Her petition suggested the council consider adding pregnancy parking so mothers could “feel comfortable, no matter what stage of their pregnancy”.

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Commentary: Redpilling, rabbit holes and how far-right ideology spreads in online spaces


SINGAPORE: The Internal Security Department (ISD) recently announced the detention of a 16-year old Protestant Christian of Indian descent for planning to attack two mosques, after being radicalised through exposure to far-right extremist ideology on the Internet.

This shocking event is a chilling demonstration that Singapore is not immune to the allure of such movements, despite seeming so distant from its places of origin in Europe and North America.

We tend to think the threat is far removed.

After all, past news coverage on the ideologies of the far-right in the West closely associates the concept with white supremacy and predominantly racial ideologies asserting the superiority of Caucasians and seeking to create exclusively Caucasian states.

But far-right ideologies cover a broader spectrum of attitudes, being linked, as the United Nations’ recognises, by “hatred and racism towards minorities, xenophobia, Islamophobia or anti-Semitism”.

READ: Commentary: Why Asia may not be immune to far-right terrorism

READ: Commentary: Why support for the Islamic State has persisted in Southeast Asia

Their transnational popularity has surged in recent years, due to their growing presence in both mainstream and underground English-speaking internet spaces.

A UN Security Report details a 320 per cent rise in attacks by individuals identifying with such causes over the last five years. They have spread in North America, Europe, Australasia and South Asia.

A RABBIT HOLE

Key to their expanded reach has been the growth of online platforms such as 4chan, which achieved wild popularity as a venue for indoctrination, where ground-up, amateur but resonant videos, images and illustrations are widely shared.

Part of this rabbit hole dynamic stems from 4chan’s function as an imageboard, which encourages users to communicate using popular Internet memes – images overlaid with text which can come across as creative, amusing, even engaging, if often crude and almost deliberately unprofessional.


(Photo: Unsplash/Wes Hicks)

This casual mode of communication has become a cornerstone of the Internet, persisting on sites like Reddit, a social news platform which allows like-minded individuals to swap thoughts on subjects of mutual interest.

But because such message boards are loosely moderated, if at all, and allow users to remain anonymous, they can become swirling pots of hateful speech.

Problematically, research has demonstrated that sub-communities within 4chan and Reddit sympathetic to the far-right have been vital to the creation and dissemination of problematic memes to a wider audience.

These same sub-communities have played major roles in the incubation of alternative news stories and disinformation, which feed into mainstream Internet platforms such as Twitter.

Popular items are often broadcast by users on Twitter, resulting in just two communities on 4chan and Reddit being responsible for around 6 per cent of mainstream news and 4.5 per cent of alternative news posted on Twitter as a whole.

READ: Commentary: GameStop insanity has painful lessons on short-selling and more for retail investors

The influence of these sub-communities has grown so much, there is even slang for the subtle process of introducing someone to far-right ideas: Redpilling.

Redpilling can happen in many ways.

Practically, a single thread on 4chan can begin as a genuine request for information about Islam, progress into theological debate, and conclude with multiple users having posted uncensored, gory pictures of extremist terror attacks.

Because these conversations tap on the general Internet culture where lines between satire, entertainment and radicalisation are blurred, attempts to identify tipping points and stages of radicalisation face an uphill climb.

READ: Commentary: The 2010s – when tolerance and pluralism came under attack

TAPPING ON MAINSTREAM INTERESTS

Often, platforms like 4chan play host to diverse communities dedicated to specific hobbies, discussing various topics and areas of interest. Unfortunately, these communities often retain shared vocabularies, which may work to normalise extremist ideology.

Man working on a laptop

(Photo: Unsplash/Matt Wildbore)

A thread discussing a popular television series might, for example, use misogynist terms crafted on the website’s far-right leaning communities to describe a character. Interest in that term could lead participants to visit those communities to seek answers.

This cross-pollination of language originating in extremism, across communities, feels organic. Strategies for radicalisation can be honed with impunity on a self-replenishing supply of users.

Far-right terrorists including the Christchurch and El Paso shooters have been directly linked to these sites, citing them as inspiration in the development of ideas and using them as platforms for disseminating their manifestos prior to attacks.

READ: ‘It was not my time yet’: Malaysian survivor recounts horrific Christchurch mosque shooting

Both shooters have notably published manifestos on 8chan (now 8kun), founded in 2013 by a 4chan user who felt it had grown too regulated.

Research further suggests mainstream platforms like YouTube assist in this process, with suggestions for videos featuring far-right influencers often appearing after content focusing on comparatively innocuous topics, like fashion or video games.

Investigations on the Christchurch and Quebec mosque shootings found YouTube influencers promoting Islamophobia played significant roles in radicalising both individuals.

READ: Commentary: Critical thinking, a needed nutrition to resist the virus of falsehoods

ALTERNATIVE FACTS

For now, detailed assessments of the radicalised Singaporean’s online activities have not been made public. But we have been told he was triggered after viewing videos depicting the execution of Christians by members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Indeed, highlighting such media is a favoured tactic on far-right communities on 4chan and similar sites, which promote Islamophobia by falsely presenting Muslims as inherently violent and barbaric.

Members of these communities are often exhorted to respond in kind with violence, after buying into the narrative of an inevitable clash of cultures framed in religious terms.

Sometimes the use of language, images and memes evoke a martial Christianity – frequently embodied in the image of the European Crusader – turbocharging these sentiments and pushing them over the brink by associating them with violence.

This was so for the 2011 Norway terrorist, and the Christchurch shooter, whose manifesto directly quoted the Catholic Pope whose call to arms launched the First Crusade. 

READ: Commentary: Hate cannot be an appropriate response to the Christchurch shootings

Jacinda Ardern

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern leaves after the Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Mar 22, 2019. (REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo)

These sentiments are again spurred on by content on mainstream platforms like YouTube, through which polemicists have developed cohesive alternative networks, selling themselves to audiences as truth-telling alternatives to mainstream media.

NO SPECIFIC CUES

While it can be tempting to suggest specific cues, or even participation in singular online communities, might directly lead to radicalisation, there is often no tell-tale indicator distinguishing ordinary Internet users from potentially violent actors.

Promoters of extremism have successfully tapped into the mechanisms of Internet culture production to build online communities, while also actively absorbing popular concepts from those communities for their own appropriation.

These bait a vulnerable minority of users who may, in delving deeper, explore and absorb increasingly extreme perspectives promoted by diffuse but ideologically aligned networks of far-right content creation and commentary.

These networks carefully cloak hateful ideology in satire and self-deprecation until vulnerable users are fully, if unintentionally, indoctrinated. 

THE ONLY DEFENCE

The only defence we have must involve all stakeholders. Parents must address the development of harmful ideological leanings before they evolve into justifications for violent behaviour.

READ: Parents can help steer youth away from online radicalisation

Schools should commit greater resources to developing programmes to enhance Internet literacy, expanding extant initiatives targeted at cyberwellness and digital misinformation to address the spread of extremist ideology online, in concert with ongoing national education initiatives.

Religious communities must likewise develop more assertive countermeasures to the threat of extremism by curbing the spread of potentially inflammatory rhetoric and equipping leaders at the grassroots level to identify and counsel congregants expressing potentially dangerous ideologies.

Police based in Britain, Canada, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Ukraine and the United States

(Photo: AFP/Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV)

This recent sign of Singapore’s susceptibility to far-right ideology is a stark reminder that extremism is not inherent to any specific creed or culture.

Ultimately, these movements and their proponents are reliant on strategies designed to undermine confidence in principles which underpin core social, cultural, and governmental institutions – democracy, multiculturalism, and the rule of law.

Our response should be to ensure the value of these principles is clearly communicated, and that their contributions to the prosperity and security of our nation is made abundantly clear to all segments of our society.

Listen to cybersecurity experts reveal the tricks scammers and hackers have employed in 2020, as more work from home and are susceptible to phishing and other cybersecurity threats:

Gareth Tan is a research analyst at TRPC, an information technology consulting and research firm. These are his own views.

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Can large fluid-filled spaces in the brain help identify those at risk of dementia? — ScienceDaily


People with enlarged fluid-filled spaces in the brain around small blood vessels may be more likely to develop cognitive problems and dementia over time than people without these enlarged spaces, according to a new study published in the January 27, 2021, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Perivascular spaces are involved in clearing waste and toxins from the brain and may be associated with the brain changes associated with aging.

The study involved 414 people with an average age of 80. Participants took cognitive tests of thinking and memory skills and were assessed for the presence of dementia at the beginning of the study and every two years for eight years. The participants had MRI brain scans to check for enlarged perivascular spaces in two key areas of the brain at the start of the study and then every two years for eight years. The top quarter of the people with the largest number of enlarged perivascular spaces, designated as severe cases, were compared to those with fewer or no enlarged spaces.

“Severe perivascular space disease may be a marker for an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia,” said study author Matthew Paradise, MB.Ch.B., M.Sc., of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. “More research is needed to understand how these enlarged spaces develop, as they could be an important potential biomarker to help with early diagnosis of dementia.”

Researchers found that people with the largest number of enlarged perivascular spaces in both areas of the brain were nearly three times more likely to develop dementia during the study than people with fewer or no enlarged spaces.

A total of 97 people, or 24%, were diagnosed with dementia during the study. Of the 31 people with severe cases in both areas of the brain, 12 people, or 39%, were diagnosed with dementia.

The people with severe enlargement of perivascular spaces in both areas of the brain were also more likely to have greater decline four years later on their overall scores of cognition than the people with mild or absent enlargement of spaces.

The results persisted after researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect either scores on tests or the development of dementia, such as age, high blood pressure and diabetes. The researchers also took into account other signs of disease in the small blood vessels in the brain, which can also be a sign of risk of dementia.

“These results suggest that there is an independent mechanism for the perivascular spaces as a biomarker of cognitive impairment and dementia apart from being a general marker of disease in the small vessels,” Paradise said. “For example, enlarged perivascular spaces may be a biomarker of impaired waste clearance in the brain.”

Paradise noted that the study does not prove that enlarged perivascular spaces cause these thinking and memory problems over time; it only shows an association.

Limitations of the study include that cognitive test data was only available over four years and that imaging data could have missed some enlarged perivascular spaces in the brain.

The study was supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and the Josh Woolfson Memorial Scholarship.

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Materials provided by American Academy of Neurology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Canberra Liberals’ blue campaign goes green with promises of trees, nature spaces and bike paths


Updated

September 20, 2020 10:13:00

The Canberra Liberals’ election platform has been driven by policies like freezing rates, lowering taxes and upgrading roads. But among the more foreseeable campaign slogans, some unusual themes have emerged — blue policies that have been dressed up as green.

The current ACT Opposition has even used the colour green instead of Liberal blue, creating memes about the environment and colouring in candidate’s avatars.

In a socially progressive city that cares deeply about protecting its environment, the party is keen to show its green credentials, particularly with a conservative figurehead in Alistair Coe.

But really how green are the Canberra Liberals?

A million trees in a decade, but at what cost?

The washes of green began in early June when the party declared that its key pillar in its environment plan was to plant 1 million trees over the next decade, including promising every child in kindergarten would be given a tree to plant from their local nursery.

Details on how the lofty target would be achieved were sketchy. Coe estimated each tree would cost between $10 and $20.

Labor quickly fired back, labelling the policy half-baked, saying each tree costs $380 plus upkeep.

The party also promised a so-called “green space guarantee”, pledging that everyone would live within a 10-minute walk of an oval or a park, playing into fears that the bush capital was being lost to developers.

It was a curious start to their policy promises and signalled a clear intention.

Then, sprinkle in plans to deliver a mindfulness and meditation program for primary school kids and a ‘poverty taskforce’ to investigate rental stress, and we arrive at this week when they announce grand plans for Canberra’s bicycle network.

A day after promising to create more carparks, slash registration fees and encourage transit lanes, the Liberals said they would build 100 kilometres of dedicated bike paths by 2030, linking town centres and making cycling road-free.

The extent of the commitment appeared to take cycling advocates by surprise, who welcomed the plan but questioned why the party had only put forward $500,000 for a study into how the improved network might work.

And, again, it offered Labor a chance to stick the boot in, arguing the previous day’s financial commitment — a $50 million parking fund — was proof the Liberals didn’t actually care about bikes.

Permission to vote Liberal in a progressive city

In Labor’s camp, their campaign themes have emerged as more predictable.

Current ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr declared this October would be an election about jobs.

Not “jobs and growth” exactly — the catchcry made famous by Scott Morrison during the 2016 federal budget — but jobs and infrastructure, as the ACT plots its economic recovery from the damage inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

And while Labor’s policies also have a tinge of green, that’s to be expected from a Government that prides itself on delivering 100 per cent renewable electricity to the ACT.

After 19 years in power, Labor persistently touts just how progressive the ACT has become, often citing the territory’s record-high ‘yes’ vote and participation rate in the same-sex marriage postal survey.

For Liberal voters it prompts the idea that they need permission to vote Liberal.

And while there’s no suggestion the Liberals are competing with the ACT Greens for votes at October’s election, perhaps the party’s greener policies are a way in for shy supporters to turn into unabashed ones.

Meanwhile Labor has yet to detail its environmental policies and, while they wait, there’s an opportunity for soft Labor voters to become Liberal voters too.

After almost two decades in opposition, the Canberra Liberals will need Labor voters to win this thing, after all.

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Majority of UK businesses consider post Covid-19 ‘meet up’ spaces rather than offices


More than 3 in 4 managers in UK businesses feel that ‘collaborative’ workspaces are now be more suitable for their post-lockdown business models when compared to a fulltime staffed office, according to a new survey.

The study found that 77% agreed that more causal workspaces designed to facilitate meetings and collaborative working (such as a coworking space) would have significant advantages for their business over a fulltime, staffed office.

Just 7% of managers disagreed that they could see the benefits of a collaborative workspace over a fulltime office. The study comes as many businesses are making tough decisions about how their teams will operate in the future due to social distancing and the changed economic landscape.

The study also surveyed another 1,000 general workers at UK businesses to find out how employees have been coping with working at home through the pandemic. 56% said that the way in which their work teams operate has now ‘changed forever’ due to the Coronavirus, suggesting that many workers may now be expecting their work arrangements to change for good, even once a vaccine has been found and further restrictions lifted.

“There has been a move towards more flexible and collaborative working for many years now, however its clear to see from this study that the impact of the Coronavirus and the lockdown has sped up this process exponentially. Many of the managers that we work with, who were perhaps a bit apprehensive about what it would be like to manage employees remotely, are telling us that they’ve found working from home remarkably easy and enriching for their teams. The real thing that people are missing is the face-to-face interaction and many businesses are now waking up to the fact that you don’t necessarily need a fulltime office for that,” said Helen Myers, Onecom’s Operations Director.

Are millennial managers more likely to support ditching a fulltime office?

Support for collaborative workspaces over fulltime offices is widespread across the age groups, however the study found that Millennial and late Gen Z managers are up to 27% more likely than Baby Boomers and managers from older generations to support ditching the office for a more modern way of working.

Which parts of the UK are most keen on collaborative workspaces?

The study shows that support for collaborative workspaces over a fulltime office is strong among managers across the United Kingdom but is most keenly felt in London, where 85% agreed with this statement. Interestingly, managers in Northern Ireland and Wales are somewhat less likely than the national average to see the benefits.

How have UK employees found working from home during the pandemic?

Productivity

65% of respondents in Onecom’s poll of 1,000 workers at UK businesses said that their productivity had been impacted while working from home during the pandemic. 39% said that their level of productivity at work had decreased, while 28% believed that it had increased.

Skillsets

The majority of workers said that they have used their problem solving, negotiation, people management ( and communications skills more often or at the same level since working from home due to Covid-19. Many also believe that their problem solving and negotiation skills have improved overall. A significant number of workers believe that their communications and people management skills have decreased.

Technology challenges

86% of the workers polled said that they have faced significant technology or communications challenges at least once when trying to maintain ‘business as normal’ while working from home.





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Project spaces: a more agile, cheaper model to help build long-term resilience


Start-ups and small organisations are traditionally more flexible and agile than their larger corporation counterparts, with flexible and remote working often part of their DNA.

But with the current COVID-19 pandemic this model has become the rule rather than an option. Workers cannot gather in large groups and are forced to avoid public transport and a crowded CBD or dynamic economic areas for health safety reasons.

Small organisations are under immense operational and financial strain, and need to find quick solutions to drastically cut unnecessary spending while keeping their employees engaged and productive.

Commercial and office space is one of those areas where businesses can easily cut costs, and use that adaptation to the pandemic conditions to transition to a model that will serve them in the long run.

Long-term, expansive commercial leases obsolete

Pandemic or not, for small businesses and start-ups it doesn’t make sense to invest in long-term, often very expensive and non-flexible commercial leases. Unfortunately, except from co-working centres there have been few options available to SMBs.

Commercial space is one of those spending areas that can be easily optimised and this is why we are seeing a tremendous rise of a shorter-term, flexible workspaces model. Even more now that work is slowly transitioning closer to people’s homes, with satellite economic areas and smaller satellite offices developing across suburbs.

Working from home not a sustainable long-term solution

As the OECD pointed out in its latest report, while the era of remote work has become a reality, and a short-term solution that many small businesses have opted for, there are major concerns in the long run.

Not everyone has the luxury and the capability of working from home, while many workers are stuck working in a home environment that is less than ideal, in spaces that are unsuitable for work and/or alongside children, without access to proper enterprise-grade collaboration tools and cybersecurity protection.

The addition of isolation makes working from home not a sustainable model.

Project spaces: moving to a short-term, more agile and modular commercial space model

Project spaces are temporary working environments that conform to the needs of a business or individual worker at any point in time. Those are compartmentalised and ready-to-use spaces that can expand or downsize based on businesses and teams’ needs, size and type of projects. Most of them are usually fully serviced with for example COVID-safe measures and cleaning, premium amenities, business grade and secure Wi-Fi, etc.

Whether it be single desks, meeting rooms or other types of office spaces available for rent for an hour, a day, a week, or a month, more small Aussie organisations and workers are opting to rent out those cost-effective spaces often located close to their homes

We are even now seeing businesses such as hotels transforming their unused rooms into short-term working spaces for professionals looking for cheap options to work from safe, ready-to-use office spaces.

A long term solution to saving on costs, building resilience and investing in business growth

The move to this new type of 100 per cent modular and short-term rental office space model is what can help small businesses not only survive the COVID pandemic but build resilience in the long term as it means they can become highly adaptable to changing internal and external conditions.

In addition, the savings made from not having a fixed and expensive commercial lease can be re-invested in areas that truly add value to the business, that can help drive growth and remain competitive in an increasingly challenging economic situation.

Daniel Gunning, CEO, Spacenow





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