Open After Hours: Should Your Business Centre Cater to Moonlighters?

Can you cater to after-hours workers?
Can you cater to after-hours workers?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that nearly 5% of working US adults have multiple jobs. That’s the official statistic. In reality, that figure is most likely a lot higher.

We already know that the freelancing market is growing fast. One of the most common ways for workers to get into self-employment or to start a new business is through part-time entrepreneurship. Moonlighting, if you like.

The question is, are workspaces catering to these hardworking would-be entrepreneurs? Or are they confined to a spare room at home, juggling their 5-9 business with family and home commitments?

Business centres the world over offer their full-time clients 24/7 access, but very few offer drop-in or hotdesking options beyond the standard working day. Dedicated coworking centres are different. They’ve spotted the opportunity to increase membership by targeting ‘moonlighters’, and more coworking centres are now beginning to open their doors during, well, moonlight hours.

The Hub in Islington, London, trialled it back in 2012. CoHub in Eastbourne launched weekly evening sessions in 2013. Many more, particularly in the US, have opened their doors after-hours. One of them is Grind, a coworking space in New York, which has just launched a late-night solution as a regular membership option.

Grind’s new ‘after-work’ programme is open Monday to Thursday from 5:00pm to midnight, all day on Fridays, and from 8:00am-5:00pm on Saturdays.

Expand membership

Grind’s new late-night membership package is cheaper than their standard offering, and the question of how to create a coworking space that remains profitable is an ongoing concern. An after-hours solution is one way of expanding the membership without risking oversubscription during peak hours. To Frank Cottle, Chairman of Alliance Business Centers Network, it’s a very real opportunity that more business centre operators should consider.

“This group of potential new clients represent an expansion of our industry’s potential overall ‘workshare’ within the marketplace,” he said.

“It’s a real-time revenue opportunity for all sectors within the serviced office industry. ‘Moonlighters’ aren’t just working a second job for some extra income – many are starting a new career or developing a start-up company that, they hope, will one day replace their day job.”

It brings its own challenges. While after-hours workspace is normally cheaper than a standard membership, such a service would ordinarily require extended staff hours, security considerations, and the cost of additional heating and lighting. After-hours members will also be expected to work around cleaners and maintenance workers.

However, there’s no denying it’s an excellent opportunity for new business owners and night owls. Grind says they have already received “significant interest” from local ‘moonlighters’ and the service is clearly in-demand.

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IT management

So is it a viable opportunity for business centres? Frank believes the key challenge lies in implementing the right workspace management software, as this will potentially take care of booking, payments, and secure access.

“The trick is simply how to handle the booking of workspace, and business center security. The former can easily be managed with a variety of the newer web-driven reservations systems that many centers now use, and which can be connected to any variety of access security systems,” he said.

“The latter is a matter of a center’s own policies and is either a staffing or a technology-based security process, depending on the amount of traffic that a particular center enjoys.”

Office design plays a large part in the equation, as security concerns would be less of a problem for a coworking space that’s positioned close to a major access point and isolated from other areas.

Location is important too. Out-of-town centres or those in traditionally low-demand areas may struggle to attract a regular client base; but for coworking spaces like Grind, located in the city that never sleeps, attracting night owls is fair game.

Does it pay?

Operators who offer coworking in their centres will already have a fair idea of whether they could balance the additional costs of staffing, power and security with a (cheaper) after-hours membership package.

Of course for many ‘moonlighters’, their enterprise is often at a pre-conception or fledgling stage. This is rarely a profitable time – yet, that doesn’t mean business centres would be chasing a lost cause. Many business centres set up coworking spaces as a feeder for their serviced space, based on the premise that some coworkers will go on to take a more profitable contract later on. After-hours coworking is no different.

And, by orchestrating a valuable connection or meeting for your after-hours clients, or by helping them to win new opportunities or investment, that newly-funded project will be more likely to reward your support one way or another.

Every business owner starts somewhere, and for most of them it starts on the moonlight shift. This can indeed offer value for your regular clients as well as your evening ones, as Frank points out.

“Extending the activity hours of a center adds new energy and creates more value for the full time clients,” he added.

“My own opinion is that this is an untapped area so far. Business centre operators will catch on, and the marketshare will go to those early adaptors that migrate to some variety of the ‘Moonlighting Model’ sooner rather than later.”

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