We need public and affordable workspaces

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I agree with your editorial (The Guardian view on working from home: a new social divide, 18 May), but you do not explore the alternative. Someone might be managing international conferences from a laptop in their kitchen, while their partner works downstairs. Two jobs for multinationals run from a small house with two children at home in lockdown – and a dog. Since Covid, this is a familiar situation in thousands of families. A normal working day of at least eight hours is spent in an unhealthy way of working and living.

Meanwhile, employers are profiting by closing offices and squeezing more hours from each homeworker. Online shopping is creating vacant high street premises. This opens the alternative of workspaces. Some exist, privately owned, with rents so high as to prohibit all but the wealthy. We need public workspaces, a mile or two from where most people live, commutable on foot or by bicycle. They need to be large enclosed areas, with multiple screened-off, sound-reduced cubes, containing a decent desk, ergonomic chair, power and ethernet, together with communal and refreshment areas. And, nowadays, good ventilation.

Ownership should be public, so that the needs of users are predominant and environmental standards adhered to. Maintenance and capital costs could be offset by a reasonable rent, paid by the employer, which should be negotiable. The reduction of long-distance commuting would be a major benefit to the environment.
RL Symonds
Broadstairs, Kent

Your editorial and other comments characterise the debate as being between employers and employees, but there is a huge elephant in the room – the consumer. Like everyone else, I have taken into account the exigencies of Covid over the past year, but enough is enough. I have lost count of the number of times that I have had to wait for more than 30 minutes for a call to be answered by an operator working from home, or the operator has not been able to deal with my query, or I’ve been unable to speak to a supervisor.

It’s about time that the companies involved asked the simple question: what’s best for the customer?
Malcolm Mckay

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