What is Cityworks by Desana?

Almost 7 out of 10 people on the planet will soon live in urban areas. This is worrying because cities already can’t cope with demand: they suffer from high levels of congestion and pollution and are struggling with outdated infrastructure.

Last week we launched Cityworks by Desana: our initiative to change the way cities work. We want to get cities and large organisations working together to reduce employee commuting.

So this is just about reducing commutes? You really clickbaited me with that title.

Well, commutes are a big part of it… but only a part. Think about all the negative consequences that come from having millions of people commuting every day.

Ok, I’m listening.

Take pollution. Currently, transport is responsible for a third of all carbon emissions in the UK and rush-hour journeys by Londoners produce an average 1.35kg of carbon dioxide per person per day.

Is that a lot?

It’s enough carbon dioxide to fill about 3,000 balloons. Every. Single. Day.

And that’s if you live in London, where most people take public transport. In other parts of the UK it can be up to 2.51kg (or 6,000 balloons, if you prefer that measurement).

Ok, that is a lot. I guess Greta wouldn’t be happy with us.

She would not. But it’s not only about climate change. It’s also about air pollution and the terrible impact that is having on our health.

Air pollution? Is that such a big problem? Sure, it’s not nice to be breathing in car fumes but it isn’t like it is killing anyone.

Tell that to the 64,000 people who die every year in the UK from air pollution.

64,000 people? I had no idea air pollution was so deadly.

Yep, almost as many people are dying from air pollution as from smoking. You are twenty five times more likely to die from air pollution than a car crash.

And the UK isn’t even close to being the worst offender. We are slightly better than average compared to the rest of Europe and it’s a big problem across the world: this year, air pollution is expected to kill around 7 million people globally.

So, wait, how does this relate to what you are doing?

Desana gives people access to a network of flexible workspaces so they can work wherever is nearest and most convenient for them, instead of commuting all the way to the office. Commute lengths will go down and as a result there will be less air pollution and carbon emissions.

But how much of a difference can this really make?

Well, obviously we think the potential here is huge. But don’t just take our word for it - one estimate has it that by reducing commutes through flexible workspaces we would produce 7.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide less per year over the next 10 years in the UK alone.

That’s a lot of balloons...

About 18.7 trillion.

Now you’re getting silly.

Sorry. Maybe I should move on from the balloon thing.

Maybe.

Obviously, cities will be much nicer places to live in if there is less pollution and less traffic.

Obviously.

But it isn’t just about the environment. We think that reducing commutes will make people happier.

Well, I do hate commuting…

You aren’t the only one. The majority of workers say it is the worst part of their day.

So, I’ll be happier because my commute isn’t as long?

That’s one of many reasons. Think of all the ways commuting impacts your life: it takes up your free time so you have fewer hours in the day to spend doing non-work stuff, like hanging out with mates or catching up on lifemin or, heck, building a miniature railway - whatever it is you want to be doing. Commuting means you have to wake up earlier to go to work.

I can’t remember the last time I got eight hours sleep on a weeknight.

Exactly! You’ll be healthier too, partly because you are getting enough sleep and partly because you’ll actually have time to cook properly AND go to the gym.

Let’s not get into my gym habits here.

Fair enough. But just imagine what it would be like if everyone was that little bit healthier because they had that bit more time. It could even lead to less pressure on the healthcare system.

That can only be a good thing.

Agreed. And it’s not just physical health, this has the potential to have an impact on people’s mental health as well.

How’s that?

Commuting has been linked to stress and anxiety in commuters. And you’ve probably heard before how being physically active is one thing you can do to improve your mental health.

Yeah, that might have come up before…

And you probably also know that feeling more connected to others also improves your health.

Yes...

So one thing that we’re hoping will come from this is that people will feel more connected to where they live. Because they’ll be working closer to home, they will feel more a part of their community - they are more likely to get to know the people who live and work in the same area as them.  

True. All I know about my neighbours is that they like to do DIY very early on Saturday mornings.

And it’s not just about getting to know your DIY-loving neighbours. It’ll be good for the local economy as there will be more people in the area during the day - aka more people to make use of local shops and services.

So I can finally go to that bakery that is never open on the weekend.

Yep. Or you can move somewhere where the local bakery has better opening hours.

Excuse me?

Well now you don’t need to live close to your work anymore. As long as you are near a flexible workspace, you can live anywhere. It gives you much more freedom about where you can live.

I… hadn’t thought of that. I mean, I’m not going to move right away, but the rent is ridiculous here.

And again - think of the bigger picture. If most people live where they want to and not where they need to then we’ll see rents and house prices even up a bit. People will no longer need to live within easy travel distance of their work.

This could end up easing house prices in certain areas and boosting them in others - it’ll help redistribute money across the country.

Reducing economic inequality, eh? You sure think flexible workspaces can solve a lot of problems.

And I’m not even getting into all the reasons why companies are embracing flexible work and coworking spaces.

You aren’t?

Nope. We wrote another blog on that 😉

But this is all just guesswork at the moment. How will you actually prove that this works?

We know that data is going to be a huge part of what we are doing. It’s something every smart city project needs to have at its core.

So what will you actually be measuring?

We’ll be surveying employees’ satisfaction with different workspaces and getting data on transport usage and commute lengths as well as worker wellbeing.

And what are you doing with all of this? No offence, but how can I trust you not to sell my private information to Russian trolls?

No offence taken. Everything that comes into our system has to comply with GDPR and is automatically anonymised. Nobody can identify you from it even when we share it with our partners.

Who will you be sharing it with?

Like you pointed out, we want to make sure this is actually having an impact. We will be working with academics to study this data and reach conclusions about how we can impact city planning.

And the city planners are going to listen to this?

We think so - they’ll have unprecedented levels of detail about commuting and transport use. It should help them make decisions about infrastructure and transport planning - and they’ll actually have the data to back it up.

That sounds like a good thing.

It’s a great thing! We’ll be helping to improve cities even for those people who aren’t using Desana.

You seem to have it all worked out then.

We hope so. After all, we are trying to change the way the world works. Do you want to join us?

Sign up your company, city or workplace now to join the Cityworks project.

What do you think? How can flexible working change the future?