why coronavirus isn't the end of coworking spaces.
It would be easy to write off coworking spaces as a primary casualty of coronavirus. Offices of all kinds are empty, millions are working from home, social distancing is now a matter of safety and real estate is changing. Not only do the immediate challenges of coronavirus tempt a doomed conclusion for coworking spaces, but the long-term behavioral shifts that the pandemic is likely to cause are also of concern.
Whilst the community business model that coworking spaces rely on is undeniably suffering, it’s far from the end of them. In fact, there is a much more positive reading of what’s to come for coworking spaces, and the outbreak could be a pivotal moment that forces these spaces to excel.
As a coworking space ourselves, we’re using this time to think hard about how we’re going to adapt our space to champion not only the community but safety, privacy, and health as well. We believe that people thrive in coworking spaces, and so do others. So, to continue our optimistic outlook, here are four reasons why we think coworking spaces will be more important than ever after coronavirus.
1. Building community
If there’s one positive idea that’s been repeated throughout the pandemic, it’s that the true value of community is being realized. Difficult (and normal) times require support, advice, motivation, and inspiration, all of which can be found in coworking spaces.
And even when a new definition of ordinary has settled after coronavirus, the importance of those needs will remain paramount. Community resources and events, connections to a diverse network of talent and opportunities, and an environment built on the atmosphere created by many are the foundations of a coworking space, and they’ll also be the foundations for rebuilding the damaged connections from the outbreak.
Whilst the end of coronavirus won’t result in a return to normal for coworking spaces, they will become critical knowledge bases, social hubs, and pools of local expertise for entrepreneurs getting back on track.
2. Combatting loneliness and creating a home
Remote working can be effective, but it can also be emotionally lonely and structurally isolating, both of which are significant obstacles for performance. In the 2018 State of Work Report, loneliness came joint first with difficulties collaborating and communicating as the biggest struggles for remote workers. This pandemic in its own right, combined with many businesses likely to retain remote working practices after coronavirus will mean that coworking spaces will become home for a large population of new remote employees.
Even with the enticing flexibility of working from home, trying to function from your kitchen just isn’t for everyone – often because of the inability to unplug from work and distractions found at home – and as time goes on, more people will look for environments that balance the functionality of a familiar office with the flexibility of remote working. Coworking spaces will be that place.
If you’re currently feeling lonely working remotely through the crisis, Buffer has a helpful guide to combatting loneliness, full of advice from other remote workers. And if you’re a manager looking for strategies to help your remote employees, Gallup has something for that too.
3. Aligning with the new normal
Coronavirus won’t be the end of coworking spaces, but it will radically change them. New measures to ensure cleanliness and new spaces that offer privacy (something we now offer) will be of the utmost importance, and the proximity that many coworking spaces pride themselves on will have to be rethought.
Whilst some argue this will diminish the possibilities to interact with others, we believe it will simply reconfigure how community members meet, discuss and thrive together. The pandemic may even be the reason to discover new ways of connecting – balancing controlled, focused spaces with selective communal spaces. Open plan work environments do not guarantee community, innovation, and creativity.
And as Mark Gilbreath – CEO of LiquidSpace – said to Vox about the effects of coronavirus on coworking spaces, “pre-COVID, the trends were already tilted towards more private team space within those operations”. Coworking spaces are among the most flexible of spaces, and as such, they’ll be able to offer invaluable spaces and communities for individuals and companies adjusting to the new normal. And that transition will be easier and more effective than traditional offices, even if they do look a little different.
4. Being the best for rapid change
Before coronavirus, it was unthinkable to many that something like this would happen, although Bill Gates did make an unnerving prediction back in 2015. Yet now everyone is aware that the possibility of an unrelenting pandemic is very real.
As a result, office spaces that advocate flexible terms over those who impose long-term leases present an opportunity. Not only do coworking spaces allow companies to react and adapt quickly to similar future scenarios, but they can also be useful transition spaces for newly shifting workforces. Even for larger companies, a long-term lease simply isn’t as beneficial anymore, and the old advantages of stability and predictability don't seem as relevant. Offices will fill back up, but choosing a space that gives you an extra degree of flexibility could make an important difference in the future.