Daily Digest News – September 10, 2020

Hand selected flexible workspace news from the most reliable sources to keep you ahead of the pack. We find all the latest news, so you don’t have to. Morning and afternoon updates. Stay in the know.

Flexible Working Is Not Going Anywhere

For years, analysts predicted a future where remote and flexible working would be a mainstay, with professionals being able to make their own schedules and work from their homes.

This prediction was expected to take place over the course of several years, but the pandemic has thrusted it into our current reality. Even now that governments have loosened restrictions and lockdown measures, companies are keen to keep newfound flexible strategies.

“All signs indicate that this crisis is going to reshape the experience of work,” said Brigid Schulte, director of think tank Better Life Lab. “Now that we’ve seen each other’s full lives, the case for flexible work is going to be a lot easier to make.”

In 2014, the UK government passed a motion that allowed all employees who have been working at their company longer than six months to be able to request flexible working. However, according to a 2019 poll from the Trades Union Congress, one in three of those requests are turned down.

Prior to the pandemic, despite the slow moving transition to a more flexible workplace, the idea that having employees in the office equated to more efficiency and productivity was the popular opinion. Now that companies large and small have been forced to adopt this new way of working, those misconceptions have eroded. 

Still, remote working in 2020 is much different than anticipated as it has been fueled by an unprecedented global pandemic. That means not only are professionals staying home, but their children are too. This can make things difficult to find the time to balance work and parental responsibilities.

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Virtual Coworking Offers A Safe Solution

Working in an office may be the last thing some workers want to do. Professionals who may have once used dense coworking spaces could be even more hesitant. So how can operators continue to serve their community without putting them at risk?

Virtual coworking is a new trend among operators that provides members with access to Slack channels, virtual happy hours and other online events. Another instance of limited workplace usage is WeWork creating a program that allows people to book their workspaces hourly or daily at any location.

“There is still some uncertainty about long-term office space needs and with the start of remote schooling keeping parents at home, not everyone is ready to commit to a traditional coworking membership,” said Rishi Kapoor, CEO of Location Ventures and owner of coworking brand Forum.

At Forum, a virtual membership starts at $95 per month and members have access to an online portal that allows them to continue networking with their community, use the company’s business address, offers mail handling services and more. For $150 per month, members can receive business coaching and consulting.

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Don’t Count Offices Out Just Yet

The role of the office in an organization has become an unexpected highly disputed topic of discussion over the past several months. While some business leaders are proclaiming that the office is dead, others are eager to bring their employees back into the workplace.

Even major technology companies, such as Twitter and Facebook, have announced their dedication to adopting remote and flexible work policies for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, Netflix founder Reed Hastings said that working from home is “a pure negative.”

While the initial move to remote working was out of pure necessity due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, it has revealed deep cracks in the purpose of office spaces, such as poor technology infrastructure. 

Now, it is clear that several workers can get their work done from virtually anywhere as long as they are equipped with the proper tools and resources.

Prior to the pandemic, only 3% of US workers worked from home. Now, collaborative tools Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meet and Cisco Webex have reported over 300 million users.

But will this change remain once a vaccine is available to the public? While the answer is unclear, it is more likely that companies will adopt both in-office and at-home work arrangements. That means employees will have the option to work from home when they want and come into the office only when they need to.

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Saudi Arabia’s Coworking Market Is On The Uprise

The coworking industry is expected to continue expanding over the next few years, and its entrance into Saudi Arabia’s market could mean big things for the country.

“The flexible workspace market is projected to reach $44 billion in value by 2021, and an increasing number of newer businesses and well-established corporates increasingly prefer to use serviced workspaces in Saudi Arabia,” said Dr. Eyad Reda, chairman of Servcorp Saudi.

Over the past three years, the number of global coworking spaces has doubled and memberships have tripled. Still, there is still a supply shortage in Saudi, with there being an estimated 3.4 coworking spaces for every 1 million workers. In comparison, there are around 32 coworking spaces for every 1 million workers in the US.

With the entrepreneurial community in Saudi steadily growing, there has been an increased demand for coworking spaces.

The Saudi government has also shown support for these coworking spaces. The country’s Public Investment Fund has invested $45 billion in SoftBank’s Vision Fund, which owns a majority stake in one of the most well-known coworking companies WeWork.

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Coworking’s Place In A Post-pandemic Society

Over the past several years, coworking spaces have launched into mainstream success as entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized businesses flock to these flexible workspaces.

Now, corporates are also seeing the perks of adopting flexibility in the wake of the ongoing pandemic, which could create new opportunities for coworking operators. 

Companies large and small are navigating how to de-densify their main office, while still offering workers a place to go and be productive. That is where coworking comes in since these workspaces are fully-equipped with traditional office supplies and amenities galore.

However, as the global economy still struggles to find its balance, the coworking industry has been impacted by a huge dip in vacancy and closures. Still, experts agree that these workspaces are expected to have a big moment in a post-pandemic society.

With millions of workers continuing to conduct business from home, the cons of doing so have been highlighted. For instance, working from home can hinder how efficient an employee is, particularly if they are balancing childcare responsibilities or lack the proper connectivity. While remote working won’t necessarily disappear, analysts predict that businesses will adopt a hybrid of both in-office and at-home working.

Additionally, large companies looking to decrease the density in their massive main offices could look to flexible coworking leases to accommodate some of their employees. Using satellite offices can keep employees engaged and maintain collaborative opportunities, which can be hard to do when working from home.

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The Future Of Work Still Needs Offices

Large companies are still seeking office space despite millions of employees continuing to work from home.

For instance, Facebook has plans to take up over 73,000 square feet in Manhattan even after it announced it would allow most of its employees to work remotely indefinitely. According to Brian Rosenthal, engineering director at Facebook, being in the same workspace as your colleagues is key to creating software.

At postal service company Australia Post, the organization has decreased its corporate real estate footprint by over 30% in the last five years and anticipates only needing to accommodate 60% of its workforce in workspaces.

“As a business, it’s giving us more confidence to have some challenging conversations about how we might work in the future, and has absolutely reinforced how important flexibility is, given it’s a long-term commitment we’ll be making,” said Claudette Leeming, head of property strategy and performance at Australia Post.

Another company who is looking to adopt both remote and in-office working is marketing software firm HubSpot, which is offering employees three choices of work arrangements: three or more days a week in the office, less than three days in the office, and the majority of the week at home.

The hybrid arrangement will likely be one of the most popular operational strategies moving forward as it allows workers to benefit from the perks of being at home to maintain a healthy work-life balance, as well as collaborating and connecting with their coworkers in the office.

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