Over the last decade, the coworking industry has become a staple in the commercial real industry. Coworking companies all over the world have popped up to offer members a new way of working, collaborating and enjoying a life of flexibility.
Coworking is appealing to both employees and employers. From the employee perspective, particularly remote workers, coworking offers a sense of community, access to office equipment and even amenities that can help enhance work-life balance.
For employers, having their workers in coworking spaces helps cut down on their own real estate footprint, leading them to cut down on overhead costs.
However, in wake of the ongoing pandemic, the industry has taken a massive hit as people around the world have been forced to work from home for the time being.
Although some operators remained open by claiming “essential business” status, a survey from March found that 72% of coworking operators saw a large drop in space usage, while 41% saw memberships decreased.
Despite the doom and gloom of the current state of the coworking market, experts believe that there is a world of opportunity for the industry in the near future.
As companies begin to explore remote and flexible working as a permanent work solution, coworking spaces are seeing a spike in demand for offices, particularly in areas outside of major cities.
The Role Of Meetings When Working From Home
In-person meetings feel like a relic of the past as millions of workers enter their seventh month of working remotely. While there have been several criticisms of remote working, analysts are predicting that between 20% and 30% of the global workforce will be working from home until the end of 2021.
This transition in workplace culture means businesses need to reevaluate and update their operational strategies in order to accommodate these changes.
Virtual meetings have become an integral part of our work lives and commutes are a thing of the past. However, there have been negatives to this transition such as losing connections with their colleagues and experiencing spouts of loneliness.
This has led companies to adopt a hybrid approach that offers both the benefits of in-person meetings and the flexibility of working remotely. So how can meeting spaces be reconfigured that supports innovation and collaboration without risking the health of workers?
ROOM cofounder Morten Meisner-Jensen said that it is important to understand the different types of meetings that exist and the role a purpose-built space plays in those meetings.
During the company’s time researching core structures, they found that 80% of meetings have less than four people but are typically held in large conference rooms.
Opting for a smaller meeting room not only cuts down on unused space, but also fuels creativity, and opens a door of opportunity in terms of office layout. For instance, ROOM’s newest model comfortably seats up to four adults and can even turn large areas into mini-conference centers to accommodate distancing needs.
The Serviced Office Industry Is Having A Moment
The current recession, which is seeing comparisons to the Great Depression, has caused the global economy to take a significant hit due to the ongoing pandemic and countries entering lockdown.
Serviced offices and coworking firms in particular have been impacted due to companies shifting to remote working until either a vaccine has arrived or businesses can navigate in-person operations in a safe manner.
While it seemed like the world may be ready to come back to the office, the UK government recently walked back on its reopening strategies and is now encouraging people to continue working from home.
Although this seems like a nail in the coffin of one of the world’s more burgeoning industries, analysts are predicting the market to bounce back in a huge way.
Demand for flexibility has actually increased in the last few months as companies look to alleviate the risks of taking up long-term leases, while also accommodating employees who want a workspace near their homes.
According to data from FreeOfficeFinder, inquiries into serviced/managed solutions grew from 82% in February of this year to 89% between April and August. At the same time, inquiries into leased offices saw a 38.9% decrease.
“We know that the trend in recent years is companies moving away from long leases onto more flexible agreements, using serviced and managed offices,” said Nick Riesel, managing director at FreeOfficeFinder. “However, I believe that the fallout and uncertainty of the pandemic is acting as an accelerator by steering these decisions at a much faster pace.”
Nurturing Community When Working Remotely
After nearly seven months into an unprecedented pandemic, the excitement of transitioning to remote working has settled and the hours spent on Zoom may be causing the cabin fever to settle in.
Now, business leaders are planning their next move in terms of the workplace and what the best method of conducting operations will be in the future.
While there have been criticisms of working from home over the last several months, it is important to note that being forced to work remotely offers a different experience than having the choice to do so. Of course, workers are enjoying the lack of commute, but the freedom to actually choose where you work and create your own schedule without considering childcare and home-related responsibilities is lost.
Additionally, it is important to make it clear that being forced to work from home during a lockdown is much different than choosing to work out of your favorite coffee shop.
That is where the third space comes in. Coming into a fully-equipped workspace may be the ideal choice for workers who are feeling limited by or that may not have the tools to properly work in a home office environment.
For instance, Codi has been described as the Airbnb of workspaces. It allows employers to use communal workspaces in neighborhoods that are closer to employees, providing them the ability to collaborate in a safe way and nurturing the sense of community that can be lost when working remotely.
Healing Workplace Friendships During The Isolation Era
According to new research from Perkbox, workplace friendships are suffering as many people continue to work from home. In fact, the data found that 65% of workplace friendships are struggling, which is increasingly troubling as loneliness continues to plague employees who are feeling isolated when working remotely.
The research also found that 45% of respondents believe maintaining emotional wellbeing is one of the biggest challenges of remote working.
Additionally, 54% of the 1,296 respondents stated that social wellbeing is one of the most significant wellbeing challenges in a remote working environment. This marks an 18% increase from Perkbox’s study conducted in the previous month.
However, 12% of business leaders view the social wellbeing of employees to be a large challenge. Even more, only 20% believe that supporting emotional wellbeing is an issue that should be addressed.
“Many organisations pre-COVID either didn’t pay much attention to friendships at work or focused on it as a way to ensure that it didn’t create any conflicts within the organisation. Today, we’re realising that strong colleague interactions seem to matter to an employee’s social and emotional wellbeing,” said Mona Akiki, VP of People at Perkbox. “Remote work appears to have created nervousness around our sense of connectivity and camaraderie with our colleagues.”
In short, leaders need to accept the direct impact that poor workplace wellbeing can have on productivity and create a strategy that supports the health of workers, particularly those who are experiencing isolation.
Aayat is an editor for the Daily Digest based in Lexington, Kentucky. She has worked with local coworking spaces since August of 2017 and enjoys taking her firsthand knowledge to write about the fascinating, constantly evolving world of flexible workspaces.