The pandemic has been the cause of financial devastation for several industries, coworking facilities included.
With remote working becoming everyone’s new normal, where does that leave coworking spaces, and how can flex space operators survive during these worrying times? The depressing reality is that many haven’t, either being forced to shut their doors or close branches in specific locations.
But with the start of a new year and the hopes of a post-pandemic world order returning someday, people are opening up to the idea of returning to the office, at least in some capacity.
So how can flex space operators prepare for the return of tenants, following preventative measures to keep people safe while still generating enough income to pay rent, utilities, and make a profit?
This article will discuss the struggles coworking spaces have been dealt with and how flex workspaces can make a comeback.
In a pre-COVID-19 world, with its short-term contracts, a diverse array of workspace options, cheaper rentals, and abundant networking opportunities, coworking was indeed on the rise.
However, the outbreak brought the need to socially distance, with workspaces having to conform to preventative measures to slow the virus's spread.
Considering that the coworking business model relies on maximising existing spaces, adhering to socially distance practices, like keeping a 2 metres distance in rooms where shared desks aren't spaced apart, became a logistical nightmare for many, to say the least.
Although an unexpected and difficult year, 2020 has forced coworking spaces to become innovative in presenting their spaces, drawing people back to work without endangering lives.
With the scare of the pandemic and work-from-home orders becoming enforced, tenants who previously lapped up the conveniences and luxuries of coworking, stopped renting space.
Less demand and reduced occupancy rates meant some coworking spaces were spread thin, having to pay rent, despite the ongoing health crisis, as well as monthly expenditures to keep the space running, and spending more on extra cleaning and sanitising.
Cleaning and Maintenance
More time and money goes into looking after a coworking space and keeping it hygienic in this day and age.
Workspace providers, to stay relevant and uphold their reputations, are going the extra mile to grant their tenants and employees peace of mind. It’s not good enough to increase deep daily cleaning, but it’s essential to provide additional protection. Unlike the past where cleaning takes place behind the scenes, today visible cleaning is commonplace.
Many offices dispense hand sanitisers for individual desks, while others have screening machines installed and protective gear, such as masks, freely available.
Unlike the past where cleaning takes place behind the scenes, today visible cleaning is commonplace.
Besides incredible facilities and infrastructure, why people love coworking is because of social benefits. Forming part of a diverse workplace community with access to career-and-business changing networking is priceless.
Although socialising and in-person networking is currently frowned upon, the option to exchange and learn from each other is available online with digital workshops and business events.
Resurgence of demand
The drop in demand for coworking space was a genuine threat to the industry. However, there’s been a resurgence from people currently experiencing home fatigue.
With the excitement of working from home gone, employees are looking for safe, affordable and accessible workspaces that veer away from large, centralised offices. Furthermore, it’s also an attractive option for big conglomerates that want to bring together staffers in a responsible way.
With the excitement of working from home gone, employees are looking for safe, affordable and accessible workspaces that veer away from large, centralised offices.
People and companies want to work flexibly
Being forced to work from home has shown countless individuals and companies that five days in the office aren’t strictly necessary for productivity. That flexible style of working has proven to be effective.
Coworking spaces address people’s need to be more flexible, offering rental options that cater to a worker’s demands, whether that’s a couple of hours per week in a professional setting or a few days in a month.
Furthermore, as companies that previously inhabited traditional offices are forced to restructure and rework their finances, coworking is the ideal office solution during these unstable times.
Rearranging spaces, revamping and enforcing rules
Over time, people will want to return to the office space because as a species, we're social creatures who need face time occasionally. Although home office is convenient and mitigates all health risks associated with being around people, there are multiple downsides.
Not having coworkers around or colleagues to spin off new ideas is warring on psychological health.
People want to be around others, from a safe distance, of course, which means the coworking spaces we once knew must change. It's no longer acceptable for tenants to be rubbing shoulders with their desk neighbours, in the literal sense of the word.
Offices are mapped out differently to match health protocols and people's expectations; notably, open plan areas are transforming. Both booths and pods are replacing desks while installing plexiglass between work desks create necessary barriers.
Hot desking memberships that allow tenants to sit wherever they want are losing favour for fixed spots in a workspace.
Some coworking spaces have relied on technology to revamp the space with features, like automatic doors, touch-free lighting and bathroom taps and more.
Finally, crowding in meeting rooms or large gatherings in communal spaces can’t happen anymore. Like workspaces, these rooms need to be spaced in line with precautionary measures. Some workspace providers have even converted their boardrooms into dedicated Zoom areas for video conferencing.
Finally, crowding in meeting rooms or large gatherings in communal spaces can’t happen anymore.
Undoubtedly, coworking has taken a knock since the start of the pandemic. But as companies prepare for the aftershock, coworking will no longer be seen as a niche office style, but an obvious workplace solution.
Coworking spaces are places of refuge for the newly unemployed, companies that are down but not out or emerging startups seeking inspiration, a supportive office environment, or unique networking opportunities.