Coworking & the Future Demise of Traditional Working. A Guide for Coworking Space Operators. (2021)
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Coworking & the Future Demise of Traditional Working. A Guide for Coworking Space Operators. (2021)

K

Karl McGee

If there is one thing that we have all learned as a result of this unending global lockdown, it’s that employee flexibility is here to stay. Companies, big and small, have come to a stark realization that there are quite a few benefits that come with remote working.

Contrary to popular belief, ‘remote working’ does not mean simply working from the confinement of your own four walls. In fact, it means enabling your employees to work wherever they see fit. This is why, as coworking space operators, many of our memberships have actually seen an unexpected rise.

Now there is still a certain stigma that comes with working in an office in the midst of a global pandemic; that is pretty justified. There is no doubt that working from home is safer and more covid-friendly.

However, there are two sides to this coin.

burnt out woman

Burnout is a real thing. This, mixed with family altercations, a blurred line between home-life and work-life, and the lack of socializing has led many to feel disenfranchised.

 Many will stop at nothing to find comfort in an office environment they are used to. This is why we opened ‘Hubflow’ in the midst of the global pandemic, and it is centered around community and flexibility. We urge all coworking space operators to follow this rule of thumb not just in their practices, but also in their marketing. Many of our members have noted these as the primary reasons they opted out of working from home (for at least some of the week).

Before we elaborate on this, let’s take a deeper look into why companies are shifting their traditional working practices.

What Is a Hybrid Approach, and Why Is It Gaining Traction?

Hybrid working in its simplest form is essentially splitting your week up to work both from home and from the office. It provides an optimal balance of productivity and flexibility. Those who have long commutes can save money and time by working from home, and those who do not live in a home that promotes productive work can still work in the office.

Big tech companies such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook, who currently influence the way we work in offices the most, have all started to ruminate over the idea of a “Hybrid Approach”. This will see employees work in their office a few days per week, with remote working populating the rest.

This begs the question, will this soon become mainstream?

Most arrows are pointing in the same direction, and that’s yes.

If we look closer to home in the UK, BBC notes that “One big UK employer, the Nationwide building society, has indicated that it does not intend to force people to return to the office if they have been successfully able to work from home during the pandemic.”

Interestingly, the team at Henley Business School at the University of Reading, who had created a three stage model for remote working to aid companies, have now added a fourth stage, which covers costs for employees moving into coworking spaces; ‘Reconnect and Revive’.

A study from Buffer claimed that 45% of the respondents worked remotely as a result of COVID-19 and 46% of that group said that their company was planning on permanently allowing remote work.

The Fall of Traditional Offices

It is clear that the pandemic has challenged conventional thinking about work practices, and whether this is permanent remains inconclusive.

Sure, the traditional offices will still be utilized, but it’s a country mile from pre-covid practices.

What about smaller companies? Those who can’t afford a 5-year lease only for employees to partially use their office. Will they continue with their lease, or will they abandon this for the new-found advantages of remote working?

Renting an office can be very pricey, with the average office space in our home city Belfast, UK, costing £23 per square foot. (Source: statista.com)  This does not include furnishing, utilities, office equipment, renovation, and fit-out costs. The list goes on…

There is something to be said about added flexibility to leases.  After the Christchurch earthquake in 2011, ‘no access in emergency’ clauses began to appear in leases in New Zealand. So, it is certainly not improbable that clauses could be added post-covid to allow employers added flexibility.

However, with coworking spaces, everything is consolidated into 1 simple monthly payment. Prices for a hot desk range from £75-£200 p/m in Belfast. This includes utilities, wi-fi access, kitchen amenities, and pretty much everything else.

It is no wonder why the coworking spaces are rising year after year!

How Can You Equip Your Space To Stay Competitive Post-covid?

Look at your coworking space. What is your brand identity? What do you stand for? Have you amplified the flexibility and communal aspects of your space? If so, we recommend you do.

 This is what will likely separate you from traditional offices in a time when companies will be picking and choosing which option is the best way forward.

  1. Traditional Office
  2. Fully remote working
  3. Hybrid Approach

According to Buffer.com, in 2021, 27% of remote workers said not being able to unplug was their biggest struggle with remote work, followed by lack of collaboration (16%), and loneliness (16%).

Option two and three will provide us coworking space operators with an abundance of leads, so it is best to prepare for this.

1. Differentiate Your Space from the Rest

Keep your space differentiated from the rest. Keep your brand identity unique, as if not, you will struggle against other coworking spaces. However, remember to sprinkle in flexibility and networking opportunities (if you do not already).

Like in any industry, differentiation of your product offering is paramount to creating a sustainable and adaptable marketing strategy. Some coworking spaces pride themselves on the added benefits they supply their members, such as mindfulness classes or event curation. Whilst others place networking opportunities and community as their focal points.

Carry out market research, and always keep in mind how Covid-19 has changed the landscape of almost all industries in the world right now. Being able to cater to your target base and also capitalize on the opportunities covid-19 has brought about, will be a great stepping-stone in the direction of coworking dominance in your local area.

Hubflow coworking space Belfast

Hubflow, Belfast, UK

2. Offer Multiple Packages that Allow for Flexibility

Coworking spaces are already the crème de la crème of flexibility, that goes without saying. But do you market it enough so that each and every one of your members, the audience on social channels, and recipients of your newsletter truly know this? If yes, keep up the good work. If no, consider it.

If say, for example, you are pitching private offices within your coworking space to an SME or start-up, flexibility is one of the prime factors that will draw them in. With the fallout of a global pandemic on our shoulders, this will only intensify. So, it’s best to prepare adequately.

One added feature you could incorporate is the ability to use the space only a few days per week, which is what we have introduced with our ‘Lite Desk’ subscription (2 Days per week access). This is also our most popular subscription. It allows for the possibility of a hybrid approach to working, offering those who do not favor working from home a break from its mundane nature.

3. Do not Lay off Your In-house Covid-19 Protocols

When the lockdown lifts, and we return to some sort of normality, we recommend not taking your foot off the gas in terms of member safety.

At Hubflow, we aim to consistently remind our audience’s that we are taking an active approach to make our space safe and clean. Methods like maintaining social distancing, deep fog cleaning, temperature checks, and digital air purifiers are just some of the steps we have taken not just to keep our members safe, but also to remind prospective leads that we are a brand built on sustainability and responsibility.

Who knows if something like covid-19 can happen again? Much of the population will now be more combative and wary of hygiene in the very fear of something like this happening again. So, it is definitely recommended that you do your best as a coworking space operator to alleviate that fear for members working in your space.

sanitary corner at Hubflow coworking space

COVID-19 has completely sent our society off the rails of normality. Long gone are the days of stability, and that age-old assumption that everything is in our control and “everything will be ok”. As coworking space operators, we must strive to adapt like never before.


This article was written by Karl McGee. Karl is a marketing executive at Hubflow, a start-up coworking space that opened in September, with a second space opening up in Belfast in May. You can find out more over at https://hubflow.co.uk.

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