It’s been said that the 2010s were a decade of disruption. The retail sector was rocked by Amazon, the hotel sector by Airbnb, and the taxi service sector by Uber. The film industry was heavily swayed by streaming giants such as Netflix, and the traditional news outlets by social media platforms such as Twitter.
There has also been disruption in the commercial real estate industry, thanks to coworking spaces. Many might say it was the pandemic, but that would be a short sighted view. It might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, but not so much the cause. We simply would have to agree that things were not really working well before the pandemic.
Stress & burn out levels were on the increase, and work-life balance was nearly impossible to attain. The workforce was largely unengaged, and activities such as unsustainable commutes were heavily affecting climate change.
Community workspaces have been around for a while now, with Hackerspaces growing out of Berlin, Germany in the 1990s. It’s only until 2005 that the concept of coworking spaces came together as a professional concept.
The financial depression of 2008 led to the rise of coworking spaces, and since then the sector saw a dramatic surge in demand. However, just like any sector across all industries, the coworking space sector was highly affected in 2020.
In a report “Coworking Spaces Global Market Report 2020-30: COVID-19 Growth and Change”, by research and markets,the report showed that the global coworking spaces market declined from $9.27 billion in 2019 to $8.24 billion in 2020 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -12.9%.
The decline was mainly due to economic slowdown across countries owing to the pandemic outbreak and the measures to contain it. The increase in the number of people working from home or remotely owing to lockdowns also limited the growth of the market.
For instance, in March 2020, many companies working from home owing to the pandemic, led to operators of coworking spaces seeing an almost 50% decline in footfalls.
Despite the hard times, there is still hope for coworking space operators, and developers with most experts stating that remote work is not going anywhere as the report further shows that the coworking market is expected to recover and reach $11.52 billion in 2023 at CAGR of 11.8%
Despite the massive hit the industry has taken, we have also experienced a changing attitude, more so now as businesses go back to the office, that will make coworking a top option for businesses in the future.
Indeed, we’ve been provided with the challenge to rethink how, why, and where people work . On our end we’re sharing a few predictions we thinking will happen in the world of coworking going forward:
In the last couple of years, organizations heavily adopted the open-plan style of office layouts. Now, due to the need to cater to the increased health & safety concerns, office plans will have to change to allow for physical social distancing ensuring a virus-safe working environment.
Organizations might be forced to cut up larger spaces into private offices, and enclosed workspaces. It will also mean sitting fewer people per enclosed space. For instance, instead of the usual 6 people per enclosed space, it could reduce to 4 to comply with regulations around social distancing.
On the other hand, coworking space operators might be forced to adjust their closed quarter communal spaces, and hot desking modules to focus more on the safety and comfort of users.
There will also be increased physical distancing throughout the whole workspace by including signage of how many people can be in a space at the same time for examples in elevators, and common areas.
This can easily be achieved by implementing the six feet office concept, which is designed to increase boundaries, and maintain a distance of 6 feet between workers at all times to decrease the risk of contamination.
Many of these office design adjustments will not only affect the commercial real estate but also the work culture itself.
All workspaces should focus on how they will empower members with options, and choices. Coworking spaces will become ecosystems that are fluid and able to be agile environments suited to meet our needs as they evolve.
Even before the pandemic, a lot of organizations were already making the shift from long-term leases to more flexible terms offered by co-working spaces. A trend that is likely to grow, perhaps even more rapidly, post-pandemic.
In addition to organizations that need flexible leases or setups, co-working space operators will need to prioritize agility in their product offering.
Coworking office packages should be designed with maximum flexibility in mind. An example would be offering short-term licenses agreements that quickly adapt to space requirements, allowing members to adjust on the space as their teams grow.
Governments may have lifted lockdowns, and restrictions, but it’s still up to individual organizations to figure out ways to reopen their workplaces safely.
As organizations start to consider going back to their workspaces, management will have to rethink the purpose of place and create compelling environments that entice people to be there.
Coworking spaces will have to give priority to pandemic hygiene protocols in their offering to ensure comfort of the different member organizations in their spaces.
Access to sanitizing stations, regular wiping down of surfaces with disinfected water, and scheduled HVAC maintenance for the air filtration system are key ways to ensure the communal area remains virus-free.
All workspaces will be forced to embrace smart technologies that help create spaces that are more responsive to teams. Technology also provides the opportunity to shift towards usage of the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies which help place safety at the hands of the user.
Installation of responsive tech such as automatic door openers, sanitizer & soap dispensers, temperature gauges, water faucets, smart lighting & doors all would ensure reduction of shared touchpoints in the workplace.
Coworking spaces will continue to leverage the shared economy and make it easier to apply many more mitigations than when installation is for just one company in a traditional office space.
It is important to note that we are not out of the woods yet with COVID-19 continuing to swing on a pendulum, and birth new mutant variants. Workspaces must have, at minimum, temperature checks on entry, visitor registration, and mandatory face masks wearing within the office space.
As organizations around the world begin to reopen, coworking space operators should by now have airtight pandemic policies that cover everything members need to know about safety & hygiene in the workspaces, and how contact tracing will be conducted in the event of a positive case confirmation.
Such a clause may contain information on what to do if one contracts the virus, how to let people know of the exposure, suggested guidelines for self-isolation and self-quarantine. Also, what steps will be taken to disinfect the entire workspace alongside how the return-to-the-space plan will be implemented.
Keep in mind that these steps are simply a starting point designed to guide your organization in implementing strategies that work for the coworking space, and its members.
We all may be feeling the undue pressure right now, and we still can’t clearly tell the future. However, we remain hopeful that things will continue to look up and we will go back to connecting, and collaborating even more in the near future.
Remember that apart from saving on costs, time and energy, coworking spaces offer the opportunity of being part of a vibrant community.
There are also personal benefits to being a coworking member, such as, you’ve been already working remotely for years. Therefore, you mostly likely have already made the mental shift from ‘work’ being a physical place to it being a satisfying experience.
It also means, you’ve honing qualities such as being: driven, flexible, entre/intrapreneurial, innovative, connected, resourceful, and resilient. Basically, skills which provide psychological strength, allowing you to overcome extraordinary challenges.