Central Coast coworking space The Foundry Cowork at Erina has released the results of a survey which focused on how the Region is working and living through the COVID pandemic.
The survey focused on three key areas: mental health, supporting the greater Central Coast community and the future of work.
Owner of The Foundry Cowork, Mel Archer, said there were a few reasons for conducting the survey. “In operating a coworking space, it’s critical that I’m aware of how our members are faring, and beyond this how our Region is going. The COVID pandemic has affected us all and being able to reach out within our community at The Foundry to find out how they’re going and then use the results from the survey to improve on our offerings, will be incredibly beneficial,” said Mel.
Of particular highlight is the fact that there are members from OUTSIDE the Central Coast region travelling to Erina to use the workspace.
Belinda Third, Owner and Creative Director of Cass and Co Creative, travels from Hornsby on Sydney’s North Shore to The Foundry on the Central Coast as a casual member each week.
“I have used The Foundry a handful of times on a casual basis as each week is different for me workwise and with appointments. That’s the beauty of the different plans that The Foundry has, you can book a one-off casual day, set days every week or full memberships. There is literally an option for everyone’s working needs,” said Belinda.
The survey found that prior to COVID, 45% of respondents’ employers had a positive attitude toward working from home or remotely. Yet, despite this positive attitude, over 54% of respondents are yet to or haven’t had a discussion about remote working with their employer, meaning this aspect of their future employment is undetermined.
While a discussion for many respondents is yet to happen, an alarming amount of respondents aren’t aware if a flexible working agreement has been introduced.
“A flexible working agreement is critical for those employees whose workplace has been impacted by the pandemic (pending employment status*). To have the discussion with your employer and look at potentially using facilities like The Foundry Cowork can be seen as a proactive step in keeping the momentum of work continuing.
“In many instances, employers will cover the cost of an employee using a coworking space as it gives the employer peace of mind that their employees are working from a professional and productive work environment. As a result, employee job satisfaction is increased and absenteeism reduced so it’s really a win-win situation,” added Mel.
The #FutureofWork survey also discovered that the biggest difficulty faced by Central Coast residents when commuting to work prior to COVID was the amount of time spent travelling. For many Central Coast residents travelling time alone can take hours and ultimately this also impacts residents trying to maintain a positive work /life balance.
For Belinda – travelling to the Coast isn’t an issue, “even though it is based in Erina and I live in Hornsby Heights, that didn’t deter me as I have family on the Coast and drive up often, so I’m familiar with the drive,” she added.
In a similar vein, when exploring the challenges of working from home or remotely 51% of respondents said that distractions were the biggest challenge, followed by meeting childcare needs and overcoming issues related to social isolation/loneliness.
Belinda says the reasons for using The Foundry were to benefit her mental health.
It was getting out of that isolation and confinement at home. As I suffer from depression, I do need times where I need to be by myself but I am also a lover of people, so having space where I can go and connect with others is great! There are fewer distractions (like the laundry pile calling my name!) and more opportunities to focus, talking to actual people in the flesh, change of scenery and making work connections too,” added Belinda.
“I created The Foundry Cowork to help others who may have been feeling the way I was, the way Belinda feel – which was that feeling of isolation when you work alone from home. The connectedness and ability to build relationships and business networks helps in a multitude of ways and as the survey has shown, the issue of connectedness really is a core issue that’s affecting Central Coast residents,” said Mel.
When it came to supporting local retailers, an issue that’s been at the forefront of most conversations during the pandemic, the responses to this question in the survey were positive. 71% of respondents had visited their local shops “more” or “about the same” prior to COVID, which Mel of Foundry Cowork says is an encouraging sign in supporting local shopkeepers and retailers on the Coast.
“We know that local cafes, restaurants and retailers have been hit hard, so to see so many respondents saying they have been supporting local businesses is heartening, especially as The Foundry is located, nearby a number of small cafes and retailers within walking distance that benefit from our members visiting their shops each day,” said Mel.
The Foundry Cowork intends to use further results from the #FutureofWork survey to help collaborative efforts with other coworking businesses on the Coast to benefit Central Coast residents enjoy an improved work-life balance.