- Companies that are transitioning to hybrid, flexible, or remote work models are seeing employees split their time between their homes and the office.
- The past two years have proven that workers need flexibility, not the traditional cubicles of the past.
- Mara Hauser, CEO of coworking design consultant Workplace Studio, spoke with Allwork.Space about how coworking spaces can help companies usher in the future of work and benefit all parties involved.
An industry that was written off as irrelevant is coming back in a huge way.
At the onset of the pandemic, coworking spaces large and small were forced to shut down or shift to limited operations. The normal murmurs of innovation within these spaces became hushed overnight.
However, defying all skepticism, coworking operators have come back full steam ahead.
Companies that are transitioning to hybrid, flexible, or remote work models are seeing employees split their time between their homes and the office, without losing any productivity.
Businesses struggling with low occupancy rates in their main offices are still funneling money into keeping these spaces open without considering the alternative: providing more adaptability and workspaces closer to employees’ homes.
The effort it takes to maintain large headquarters isn’t sustainable from both a financial and cultural perspective. The past two years have proven that workers need flexibility, not the traditional cubicles of the past.
There is a solution, however.
Mara Hauser, CEO of coworking design consultant Workplace Studio, spoke with Allwork.Space about how coworking spaces can help companies usher in the future of work and benefit all parties involved.
Allwork.Space: What is the biggest lesson about workplace needs for coworking operators to take into the new year?
Mara Hauser: The biggest lesson to take into the new year is that hybrid workspaces are here to stay. We can expect the highest level of traffic we’ve ever seen in the coworking world. Some users are seeking access to collaborative work environments as well as heads down space, while others only need part time or shared offices. It’s important for operators to provide solutions to the evolving needs of various users.
Adaptable spaces should be equipped with proper tech tools and acoustics for virtual meetings while also incorporating flexible design elements, such as collapsible walls and furnishings with casters. This allows the user freedom of mobility to meet their needs on demand.
Amenities are also a key factor for why users will choose to come work or meet at a collaborative coworking space. Uninterrupted, secure WiFi access and additional services eliminate the otherwise troublesome aspects of working from home or local businesses. As operators strive to meet these growing workplace needs, there will also need to be flexibility with offering part time membership packages.
Allwork.Space: How is your company accommodating the growing demand for more flexibility?
We’ve shifted in our coworking model to accommodate people who need to work from home, but also want a space to get away. We have a lot of private offices now that are being shared between couples who either share or take turns using the space. We offer corporate team rooms where 20-30 members might have access to the space, but only 5-7 will possibly be there at a time.
We’re also making more of an effort to have everyday quiet spaces to meet the needs of users who are coming in on demand. While we still have our monthly users or teams signing contacts for a three week project, there are also more and more users with a need to come in for just one day and we have the tools to provide for them as well.
With the growing demand for flexibility, we’ve also enhanced our spaces for both in person and virtual use. Meeting rooms are even more adaptable than before with design elements such as flex tables that can easily be moved to accommodate a more collaborative layout or even individual heads down space on-demand. Our spaces are properly wired for “Zoom room” capabilities with the latest tech tools to host flawless virtual meetings. We also offer amenities and concierge services such as grab and go food as an added benefit to our workspaces.
Allwork.Space: Is it beneficial for businesses to incorporate a coworking space as part of their portfolio during this somewhat post-pandemic era? Why?
Yes – as we move into 2022, the role of the workplace is going to continually evolve. While in the past it was hard for employees to convince employers that they can be productive at home, the pandemic has proven that it is possible to conduct work outside of the traditional office space.
In order for businesses to remain or become successful, they must give their employees a choice and really understand their needs. There has been a shift in prioritizing overall wellbeing that stemmed from the freedom of working from home. While people have missed the sense of connectivity and culture that is experienced in-office, they have adapted to the flexibility that came with working from home.
For example, people were able to work from outdoor spaces, engage in light exercise breaks throughout the day, make their own meals, etc. Offering a coworking space as a solution can allow for increased productivity, more effective utilization of square footage, and act as both a recruiting and employee retention tool.
Allwork.Space: Which industry are you seeing the most demand from?
We’re seeing demand from all types of industries. We do have large groups within the legal and financial industry where client interaction, billable hours, and focus time are very important.
When it comes to attorneys, I think some of these larger law firms have changed how their corporate offices are set up with the understanding that people can be remote if they need to. Independent attorneys as well enjoy the ability to have a place for heads-down work or to meet with clients outside of their home offices. However, the demand to come into coworking spaces is coming from all industries.
Allwork.Space: Could the coworking industry see continued growth in 2022?
Yes, I believe the coworking industry will continue to see levels of growth in 2022. There is a collective understanding that the traditional work model will not fully return to its pre-pandemic state. Businesses and employees have faced immense change over the last two years, and have had to continue adapting to a new normal.
Over time we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to both corporate and remote settings. We’ve learned that it’s possible to navigate a hybrid work model as well as the importance of evaluating and prioritizing employee wellbeing. There are benefits to both the enterprise businesses and the employees in embracing coworking spaces and what I call a hub and spoke approach.
Allwork.Space: How can coworking operators adjust their offerings to address evolving tenant needs?
It’s important to have effective ideation spaces — you will need some heads down space as a “focus zone” as well as the best tools for collaboration. The biggest trend in design is flexibility and providing diverse spaces that can transition to serve multiple purposes. A space that serves as a team room should be able to convert into a quiet room or innovation hub. Moveable walls or furniture with casters and other mobility elements for optimal on-demand design is what we strive for.
The ability to project and utilize technology is important as well, for example, having Zoom rooms to allow for hybrid meetings. This requires having power in multiple locations, natural lighting, and enhanced acoustics.
Package offerings will also need to look different than what they looked like pre-pandemic. Businesses are now making choices where they are either having their employees always in, always out, or following a 2-3 day in office model.
When people are not working from the corporate office, what does their work from home model look like? Are they looking to work from coworking spaces on both or just one of their at-home days? Operators have to prepare to accommodate tenants outside of the standard contract terms they are used to.
Allwork.Space: What makes coworking spaces attractive to businesses?
Coworking spaces have increasingly become relevant to businesses’ strategic plans for growth. Enterprise businesses can expand their physical footprint in a scalable and financially efficient manner by using these hybrid coworking spaces. Coworking spaces offer various corporate packages with the flexibility to scale up or down and commit to shorter-term leasing. Additionally, the amenities offered by various coworking spaces often eliminate overhead costs such as utilities, repairs, and essential stock items.
In the age of working from home and growing hybrid work models, enterprise-level IT is not easily accessible. An employee’s home or favorite coffee shop cannot offer the same internet service and security that an enterprise business can. Coworking spaces, however, can provide fast broadband, reliable connectivity, and network security. Aside from technological security, physical access to coworking spaces is limited. People are not able to walk in off the street and be within reach of important business documents, which is not the case when working from a coffee shop or local business.
Finally, one of the aspects I love about coworking is the networking opportunities you receive just by working alongside people from different backgrounds. In a coworking space, you will have professionals from marketing, legal, accounting, construction, banks, etc. You will inevitably be networking without even realizing you are networking.
Whether you find that another business works with the same client as you in a different capacity or can utilize another business’s service for your own growth, this ability to build trust and respect amongst professionals in all industries could add value to your business.
Allwork.Space: What are the risks businesses could face if they avoid addressing new employee demands?
Whether in person, virtual or hybrid, employees are looking for a sense of connectedness and belonging. They are choosing to work where their values align with the business. Businesses need to ask themselves: “How can we promote a culture of well-being and be forward-thinking when it comes to ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance)?” Answering this question with a “people first” attitude will be a huge driver for employee growth and retention.
Today more than ever, organizations have to take meaningful action to help their employees find connection and balance. In some cases this means providing employees an alternate or third space to work from, like a coworking space. In others it means providing a remote employee an at home office set-up with the appropriate tools and WiFi connection that in-office employees are afforded access to.
No matter the situation, businesses need to act on these demands or risk losing employees and brand integrity.