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In Montreal, 23 free outdoor workstations pop up for hybrid workers

No commutes, having lunch with your spouse, walking the dog between meetings, more freedom and a better work-life balance — working from home has plenty of upsides. On the other hand, it can get lonely, and spending all day and night between the same four walls can take its toll. To get WFH-ers out and about, the city of Montreal now has 23 outdoor workstations that are free for anyone to use.

These Îlots d’été — little summer islands — were specifically designed for teleworking outdoors and feature power outlets, integrated lighting and free wifi. The aluminum and wood structures can accommodate two socially distanced people, and six at normal distance. A canvas roof can withstand rain and wind. Each space also features native plants, and a ramp for accessibility. The cabins were entirely designed and manufactured in Quebec using sustainable materials. In addition to combatting the isolation that many teleworkers feel, the project hopes to share the benefits of 'greendesking' for people's mental and emotional wellbeing — bon pour la tête comme pour le coeur.

With support from the Government of Quebec, financial services cooperative Desjardins and mobile and internet provider Fizz, Îlots d’été is powered by Aire commune, a popular open-air hangout and coworking space. Aire commune is part of Îlot 84, a not-for-profit aiming to revitalize urban spaces and create connections between a city's residents. Îlots d’été will operate from June 14th through October 14th, and Aire Commune aims to have fifty stations up and running in Montreal by the summer of 2025.

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While the very nature of some occupations makes it impossible to perform them away from a central worksite, there's no doubt the pandemic caused a huge leap forward in flexible working. Judging from surveys and polls, some degree of flexibility is here to stay, creating opportunities for both businesses and not-for-profits like Îlots d’été to cater to people when they're not working from the office.

A few stats on the current state of WFH:

In Australia,  61% of polled working professionals in a Hays survey believed a hybrid working model was the most productive, and 47% of employers were open to retaining WFH as part of their workplace mix (source: Financial Review).

A recent analysis by the UK's Office for National Statistics reported that of those who are currently homeworking, 85% wanted to use a hybrid approach in future. "When asked about homeworking, working adults stated work-life balance was the greatest positive, while challenges of collaboration were the greatest negative." Meanwhile, as reported by the Guardian, the UK government is considering legislation that would give employees the right to work from home. 

In the US, Conference Board surveyed HR managers and found: "79% of the mostly large businesses say 10% or more of their employees will be able to work remotely at least three days a week a year after the pandemic subsides. That compares with 26% of firms that permitted staffers to primarily work from home before the health crisis" (source: USA Today).