In a recent podcast on the European Coworking Assembly’s (ECA) website, hosts Željko Crnjaković from Solutium in Serbia, and Bernie J Mitchel from the London Coworking Assembly chatted with head honcho at De Kamer and President of ECA, Jeannine van der Linden. The discussion centred on taking bold stances, communication and growth in trying times.
While the world is somewhat on pause by order of the various governments in Europe in order to flatten the curve of the spread of Covid-19, there doesn’t seem to be much of a slowdown in the coworking community. The ‘future of work people’, as Jeannine refers to them, are still hard at work, now more than ever. In a trend that’s seen businesses either close or pivot their solutions to cater to Covid restrictions and people being forced to explore a side hustle in order to pay the rent this month, feed the kids and actually be able to live.
This uncertainty of being able to meet all those commitments, and the limits to which coworkers stretch themselves, is what inspired this discussion. The overall message is that instead of looking at the smaller picture, like that the rent is due, it’s also useful to take a step back and look at the bigger problem. A problem that filters all the way down – from the government, to banks, to landlords and to coworkers.
In de Kamer social working is centred in a place but is not about the place, so it was important to develop strategic communication to coworkers aimed at how to can keep their business alive and thriving during a time of lockdown. De Kamer also hasn’t seen a large drop in memberships, possibly due to the fact that rent was proactively lowered for everyone to the basic membership level which inspires coworkers to feel they’re still receiving value in the community they’ve become part of.
However, coworking spaces still need to look at bringing in additional revenue during this time via various online measures to stay afloat — and also for the future benefit of their coworkers. It’s during times of pain and crisis that people must re-evaluate the way they work. It’s a time to reflect and discuss whether the current form of doing business is the best and most sustainable way of going about it. Now, how you go about taking this bold stance is up to you, whether it’s right or wrong remains to be seen. But if it’s wrong, you can always change your mind again, there is no special prize for getting it right the first time whatever we might have been told as children.
By nature, we’re wired to learn things, but find it challenging to unlearn things. Jeannine’s view is that the age-old saying “the end justifies the means” – is a fallacy. The means you choose always changes your end. Tackling the larger problem behind it all and coming to terms with the fact that we’re all in this together expands your viewpoint on the bigger picture. The picture that requires collective effort between government, business and individuals during a time of crisis.
Support has been offered by the European government, and although they’re working to ensure the process is somewhat simple, the ECA has also been doing their own homework around how to apply these relief benefits to the coworking world. Two resources driven by members of the ECA aid the process of staying informed, namely the Coworking Library and the Crisis Directory, developed specifically to provide support during the Covid-19 pandemic.
While many organizations are waiting for the storm to pass, ECA has been working to gather information and plan the next move. With the annual EFWeek taking place in October this year, the view will be on what is urgent and important now, because that has to be addressed ASAP, as well as what is not urgent but is important. Another viewpoint that needs to be dealt with.
Coworkers are encouraged to reach out and share any specific struggles and questions that need answering – the ECA and broader team is more than happy to find the resource to shed some light on the matter. Even better, join the ECA Slack for more news and updates – they’re a community that prides themselves on being the first to help.