We expect that all the diverse forms of independent coworking will take the world by storm in the medium-term future as businesses and freelancers go back to work as normal — albeit this ‘normal’ is somewhat new. The unavoidable reality, though, is that many spaces will r see their demise from the immediate impact of the novel Coronavirus. We may even see mergers between independent spaces in an effort to keep all heads above water, Jean-Yves Huwart from SocialWorkplaces.com.com believes.
In the days before Covid-19 and social distancing, the dominant model of coworking spaces was of buzzing hubs teeming with ideas and people. Collaboration happens here, businesses start here, and communities grow here. Massive coworking events, like the Coworking Europe Conference, take place, with over 600 attendees. Now, in 2020, SocialWorkplaces.com see about a 10% occupancy and conferencing has gone fully digital in the current state we find ourselves in.
Companies are reconsidering the coworking model from an economic perspective as well as seeing a community network, and businesses are realizing that digitization works. If anything, Covid-19 has proved this. The historical idea that business should operate out of the bigger metros where employees flock daily to the Central Office has been proven unnecessary. What about bringing work back to the countryside? This is a concept that is being seen in some European countries. Imagine the economic kick-start these hubs provide for the smaller cities; the positive impact on the environment of less commuting and a lower carbon footprint.
Coworking makes up only a small portion of the workplace landscape but it has and will continue to have a huge effect on shifting the traditional office model. It offers a distributed workforce that has a knock-on effect on transport, town planning, and career choices. It gathers a diverse pool of individuals with different initiatives and creates opportunities we didn’t know existed. Coworking is changing the way we think work should be.
With the lull in business slowly picking up and employees returning to their jobs, the pickup in coworking spaces should be seen too. In countries like Israel, some of the coworking spaces are currently operating at 70% occupancy, with special precautions in place of course – plastic partitioning and social distancing playing the biggest parts. In Jean-Yves’ own coworking space experience, his meeting and event rooms normally make up 40% of his revenue – a portion similar to what a lot of other spaces experience too. But, what does the timeline of face to face meetings and interactions look like? Only time will tell.
Jean-Yves’ advice looking towards the future is that coworking spaces need to speak up, to share their vision of the future of work and their beliefs about the values of coworking in their local surroundings, continue to nurture that community and the fact that these spaces are part of a bigger solution. Digital working is working, so to speak, and you don’t need to work from your kitchen forever. The misconception that coworking spaces are strictly for freelancers, start-ups and entrepreneurs also need to change. Coworking is transforming the workplace model by employing a distributed workforce, expanding collaborative opportunities, and creating a community of coworkers. It’s time to get business to think of coworking as the solution.