How Hourly Coworking Boosts Revenue and Makes Coworking More Accessible: A Q&A With Covo’s Rebecca Brian Pan

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Rebecca Brian Pan, CEO of Covo, explains how to make hourly coworking work
  • Hourly coworking can make coworking more accessible and also creates an additional source of revenue
  • Covo’s hourly coworking area can also be used by monthly members
  • For hourly coworking to work, operators need to implement a seamless check-in and check-out process

Covo, a coworking brand that launched in San Francisco and recently opened a second location in St. Louis, has reworked the coworking model. The ground floor shared workspaces have public-facing, in-house coffee shops, in-house bars and event space.

Covo also offers hourly coworking at $4/hour, which is charged to the minute and caps at $32 per day—the price of a Covo day pass. Hourly coworking adds another revenue stream, making up 17% of Covo’s coworking revenue. It also diversifies the Covo community, and gives the public more entryways into coworking.

Allwork.space spoke with Covo CEO Rebecca Brian Pan, who was co-founder and former COO of NextSpace, about her vision to make coworking more accessible, the challenges of hourly coworking and advice for workspace operators considering an hourly coworking option.

Allwork.space: Did you know you were going to offer hourly coworking at Covo from the company’s inception?

Rebecca Brian Pan: We did. We understood that there was this idea or option of hourly coworking, but that it wasn’t being executed to our vision. We saw hourly coworking, like the Covo coffee shop and bar, as another way of including the public, reaching out to a wider audience and allowing people to utilize the space with no commitment whatsoever.

Allwork.space: So you had seen spaces that offered hourly coworking, but felt that it wasn’t being executed well. What needed improvement?

We felt like people could use more room per person. You know how you have different hotels: you have the Hampton Inn, and you have the Hilton, and you have the Ritz. What we were seeing struck us as the Hampton Inn version of hourly, drop-in coworking. We saw that it works and that people liked the idea, but we wanted to create something more elegant, with better ergonomics and a more seamless check-in, check-out experience.

Allwork.space: In addition to proving an additional revenue stream, why was it important to you to make coworking accessible on a walk-in basis?

One of my experiences with NextSpace was that the value of what we were providing members was very high—people loved it and they got a lot out of it. Even though they could leave at any time, they didn’t, they stayed and paid. That was a good affirmation that we were doing something that people are getting a lot of value out of.

But, it wasn’t accessible to everyone. You had to know the space was there to find it; it wasn’t ground floor so you had to go up an elevator; it tended to attract a very pale, male member; and it was people that already knew about coworking. We wanted to widen the scope of who could find us and who could access that value of coworking.

Allwork.space: What has the response been? Was there a learning curve you went through educating the community about hourly coworking?

It took off from the start and has grown month over month—but so have all our areas of revenue generation. We’ve been really fortunate.

We signed on early with Croissant. Their model is that there are a lot of places you can work and you don’t necessarily want to go to the same one every day, so it’s for the commitment-phobe, as well. Croissant has been a great driver for us and we hear from them that we’re their most popular venue in San Francisco. We’ve had a number of Croissant members convert to full membership here. They’re paying a premium to have the freedom to go anywhere, but they only want to come here.

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Allwork.space: What’s the relationship between the public-facing coffee shop and wine and beer bar, and hourly coworking?

In the hourly coworking space, you have access to the coffee shop and access to the bar. It’s worked really well. Our hourly drop-in users are our biggest users of the coffee shop.

Allwork.space: Community is a big part of coworking, and I know it’s important to you. Do you see community-building taking place among the hourly coworking users?

That was an area we were worried about. We were worried it was going to be very transient and people were not going to meet each other. That was something I had experienced in hourly spaces before. I had been in spaces where everyone had headphones on and were all just focused on their own stuff. We were apprehensive that people were not going to connect.

That hasn’t been the case at all. It has actually been fabulous. Some of our most participatory folks are hourly users and not monthly members.

Allwork.space: If hourly users are the most participatory, why don’t they just join?

One example is a woman named Rebecca, who is a really successful astrologist. She travels often to do sessions with clients but she comes into Covo one day a week. She comes in with a big group of women, they work in the space for the day, and they love it. Whatever is going on that day in the space, she is part of, and we have her for that one day. To pay a whole monthly membership doesn’t make sense for her.

Allwork.space: Any advice for space operators considering experimenting with hourly coworking?

Our monthly members have access to the hourly lounge as well. You can’t assume that the hourly lounge will be completely filled by hourly drop-in members. You do have to make space for your monthly members, especially if it’s the nicest part of your space, which it is for us. Everybody wants the soaring ceiling and natural light. So when you’re doing your initial modeling and estimating, that’s something to keep in mind. Our members really appreciate the hourly coworking community because of the constant influx of energy and new faces and new ideas.

Allwork.space: Any tech tips to implement hourly coworking?

We designed and developed a piece of tech to do really seamless check-in and check-out. We created it to be publicly available. From the beginning, it was developed to be whitelabel, so people could write their own copy and adjust their pricing themselves. People can use the exact system we use and it’s been fantastic. People can email me at [email protected] if they want more information.

Allwork.space: What are the biggest challenges of offering hourly coworking?

By far the biggest challenge for us is that being open to the public means that anyone can walk in off the street, and we’re not in a good neighborhood. We’ve had to deal a lot more with colorful characters. We’ve had to do quite a bit of de-escalation training; we host our police captain who does a meeting every month because we have to call 911 on a frequent basis. That’s the biggest challenge of it being accessible to everyone, is that it’s accessible to everyone. It is mostly amazing but it does have this one significant challenge.

Allwork.space: What would you tell a space operator who hears that and says, “And that’s why I don’t want to do it.”

I think it’s controllable. We knew that this was going to be a challenge when we took the space. We decided to do it anyway because we do really want as many people as possible to access the space. By having this ground floor retail component, it was a challenge we were willing to take on because of the benefits of being able to reach everyone.

Allwork.space: Thanks, Rebecca. Anything you’d like to add?
Hourly coworking was definitely an experiment when we started because it was such an unknown quantity. It has brought so many new people and faces, and it’s great for reviews. We get a lot of Yelp and Google and Facebook reviews. It’s great for an overall exposure and awareness in the city. We get more than our fair share of Google searches. I do really highly recommend it.