- The pandemic impacted every business, but the nature of coworking – which brings people together to work and gather in communal spaces – hit the coworking industry in a particularly different way.
- At this year’s GCUC, there was skepticism about whether there would be enough coworking spaces to meet the demand from all the new corporate nomads emerging from their home offices.
- One of the larger announcements to come out GCUC was the formal introduction of Coworks. This new brand is the latest creative offering from United Franchise Group, Venture X, and Office Evolutions.
GCUC USA 2022 was held May 17-19 in Seattle Washington. This year’s gathering welcomed over 225 coworking owners, operators, enthusiasts, and supporters.
The conference was billed as a “who’s who of coworking’s newsmakers.” The speakers and attendees lived up to that branding.
As expected, the majority of the attendees were from cities around the US. There were, however, a few dedicated folks representing coworking communities from around the world – including the UK and Australia.
The overall vibe of this year’s event had great positive energy, which was for two reasons. The first, of course, was seeing other humans face to face. Friends, influencers, colleagues that have been attending GCUC and/or otherwise a part of the industry for years have been isolated like everyone else.
But when your business is all about bringing people together and creating in-person communities, the isolation hits extra hard. This was the first time in nearly three years that many of the attendees had seen each other.
While most were challenged to figure out today’s safe greeting ritual (a hug? Elbow bump? An awkward salute?) everyone was welcomed with the warm smiles of reunited friends.
Kane Willmott, CEO of IQ Offices (who had to navigate international COVID protocols to attend from Toronto) told Allwork.Space, “I really enjoyed the content but especially the connecting with people in real life. We saw real people again! All together. It felt great, almost like no time had passed. Normal. A big thank you to Liz and Stormy for putting on a great event in Seattle and getting our industry together again.”
The second reason GCUC was so great this year was the palpable energy of the coworking industry right now. The pandemic impacted every business, but the nature of coworking – which brings people together to work and gather in communal spaces – hit the coworking industry in a particularly different way.
Many communities didn’t survive. But for those who did weather the storm, the light on the horizon was bright. As work from home is giving way to hybrid ways of working, as well as a “new normal,” coworking is a part of the conversation about where work happens in a way that has never been seen before.
There were a few more cautious folks having conversations that expressed their skepticism. This time it was not about a market saturated with too many spaces, as were talks in 2019, but instead their skepticism was about whether there would be enough supply to meet the demand from all the new corporate nomads emerging from their home offices.
Could coworking expand quickly enough before those new potential members had to find alternative workplaces or revert to their old ways?
Most savvy operators are also quick to add that this may be a short-lived boom – as misbalances in supply and demand often are. In addition to predictions of an impending recession, the floors upon floors of office spaces ending their leases in the next few years could flood the market, as untethered employees have found other more appealing places to work.
But for now, established coworking spaces with healthy balance sheets are well positioned for the wave of new corporate employees exhausted by working from home and not wanting to return to their old beige boxes either.
“For the past decade, GCUC has been the place where flex operators convene to spot trends, learn from each other and lean in on growth opportunities,” Sophia Stolberg, CEO of Piloto 151 in San Juan Puerto Rico told Allwork.Space. “GCUC Seattle delivered on that and so much more. As the flex space industry enters a new era of unprecedented growth, coworking space operators who attended GCUC emerged with the tools necessary to ride this impending wave successfully.”
One of the larger announcements to come out of the gathering in Seattle was the formal introduction of Coworks. This new brand is the latest creative offering from United Franchise Group, Venture X, and Office Evolutions. Coworks looks to capitalize on the wave of coworking expansion by offering a new franchise model that encompasses the experience and resources of the existing United Franchise Group portfolio.
GCUC was set up in two tracts. First is the Master Minds series. Designed for established brands looking to improve, this is more of a 400-level course for seasoned operators looking for help as their businesses expand and mature.
Sessions led by industry experts like Nick Clark Founder of Common Desk, a WeWork Company, focused on successfully winning management agreements with building owners.
The second tract, “Future of Flex” was made up of slightly more introductory courses. These sessions are designed for folks new to coworking. With sessions like, “ask an operator” it’s a day of drinking from a firehouse of coworking knowledge.
While being inundated with invaluable insights from coworking veterans, these brave new operators shared in the energy of GCUC and the approaching wave. The positive energy of this moment in the history of coworking is as exciting for established brands as it for those just now discovering the potential.
The real value of this event is not only what is learned in the sessions, but what is shared in between formal presentations and corroborating panels. The conversations that happen in the breaks, in the hallways, and of course happy hour, are what bring people back to events like GCUC year after year.
It’s where surveyed attendees routinely say they got the most out of the event. It’s those candid interpersonal moments where friends are made and business deals are sealed. Even with the slickest technology, it just cannot be replicated virtually. As is the nature of coworking itself, it’s in our nature to want to be with one another.
As soon as this year’s GCUC began, the hurdle of time and new protocols seemed to fade away and the halls and happy hours of GCUC were filled with laughter, handshakes, hugs, and all their socially distanced warm equivalents.