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Smart work hubs: Australian pilot brings offices to the workers

Submitted by kevin ebi on July 18, 2014

Australia is spending billions of dollars to build tunnels designed to whisk drivers under Sydney’s clogged roads. And it’s raising and extending tolls. Even still, traffic is forecast to get worse – not better.

So what is left to do? Build new offices closer to people’s homes. Given that the government seems to have tried everything else, some believe the idea has merit.

The government is establishing Smart Work Hubs as part of a pilot project. Each hub will be equipped with fast broadband, Wi-Fi, video conferencing, meeting spaces, kitchens and onsite IT support. The idea is to give commuters who cannot or don’t want to work from home an option other than driving all the way into their regular offices.

Trying to change a commuting culture

The $1.5 million pilot hopes to shorten commutes for people who live in Western Sydney and the New South Wales Central Coast. Between the two areas, some 240,000 commuters spend hours on the road each day. And even though it’s slow going on the roads, nothing is slowing down the growth of traffic.

Already for some workers, tolls consume an hour’s wages or more. Yet, despite the high cost of admission, more people are on the roads. The only toll road that saw a decline in traffic was one under construction. Some toll roads have seen traffic increase more than 8% over the past year.

Even with all the road construction, commute times are forecast to get steadily worse, although they would be even worse without the projects. But there is some concern that all the new roads and tunnels just serve to make driving even more attractive.

Targeting a high-tech workforce

Traffic planners figure there are thousands of high-tech workers who, with the right tools, could do their jobs from anywhere. Whether they find working at home too distracting, or they need higher-speed Internet and meeting space, planners hope they will find the Smart Work Hubs attractive.

In locating the hubs, planners picked sites that are served by major transit centers and are within 20 minutes of dense residential areas. The hubs will open later this year and run for at least a year, perhaps longer if the results show they have an impact.

Project backers understand that even high-tech workers need to go to the corporate campus from time-to-time for face-to-face meetings and team-building activities. But given that the workers already identified as being candidates for the Smart Work Hubs represent more than 2% of the cars on the road, there is hope this project will have a positive impact on traffic.


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