Believe it or not, coworking spaces are beneficial to the working force right now and for the future. The pandemic has forced us all to think outside of the box. This is no exception, which you can read all about below.
With the shift towards remote work getting a sudden boost due to the limitations imposed by COVID-19, many companies are adopting post-COVID policies to make it easier for their workers to work from anywhere – reducing the need for expensive and underutilized office space.
Rather than endanger the coworking industry, COVID-19 may bring us to embrace coworking as one of the key players in a workspace revolution meant to minimize infectious disease and subsequent public health scares. In addition, leverage the technologies that allow millions of us to work from anywhere.
We are going to see more changes to the way we work not only with a better and more optimistic outlook towards remote work, but with renewed interest in cost-efficient and well-maintained flexible office spaces.
1. Managers and Leaders are Seeing the Importance of Workplace Flexibility
As offices throughout the world shuttered in response to the novel coronavirus, thousands of industry leaders and company heads had to rapidly shift towards limited capacity remote work, encouraging their workers to continue working from home whenever applicable.
As a result, just about everyone who could work from home did work from home during the lockdown (42 percent of the US labor force, accounting for about two-thirds of the entire American economy). And while businesses have had the opportunity to gradually open up again, many managers have been made aware of the benefits of not only remote work, but workplace flexibility as well.
An empty office is an expensive liability. Now that managers and employers have seen that they can continue to run a business while their employees remain productive from home, many are considering an overhaul to their work-from-home policies. Reducing the number of employees being called back into work on an as-needed basis, while the rest continue to remain productive and safe within their own four walls.
In doing so, many companies will come to realize that they need far less office space than previously imagined. Policymakers and business leaders also understand that COVID-19 is unlikely to be the last pandemic – and understand that a shift towards improved readiness via better remote work policies and flexible workspaces can mitigate loss of life and economic losses in the future.
2. People Can’t Work from Home Forever (and Many Can’t Work at All)
The shift towards popularizing remote work and improving its efficiency (via improved telecommunication tools, improved infrastructure, as well as policies to assist employees in setting up basic home offices) will undoubtedly remain a major topic for the next few years.
However, it’s also important to remember that only a portion of the American workforce can operate at 80-100 percent efficiency remotely. Millions of Americans need to interact with customers and/or equipment to do their job. And while certain jobs are at least partially possible remotely (such as via telehealth and virtual reality), the post-COVID world will not see the disappearance of the office, or urban infrastructure such as public transport. Inequality is at an all-time high.
Meanwhile, many of us who have been working from home are beginning to feel the strain of spending 24/7 within the same four walls. And while many employees will relish the option of spending a few days a week working from home, few will consider staying at home indefinitely (though most will certainly want the option).
Workspaces must be adapted to accommodate fewer workers in a safer way, encouraging many to continue to minimize their contact with others (particularly in crowds) without ignoring the fact that millions of Americans must come to work to have a job at all.
3. Companies Need Less Office Space
When it comes to office spaces, coworking spaces are better at dealing with the unique demands of a post-pandemic world. This is by taking the hassle and cost of managing and cleaning a large office space for a reduced workforce out of the hands of companies, allowing them to save massively on the overhead of a post-COVID office while reaping its benefits.
Larger firms are working on “de-densifying” the office, having fewer employees return, and investing in safer office spaces. Big companies and small businesses alike can turn towards coworking spaces to provide safe and frequently maintained flexible office space for workers who need to cooperate in-person for a set time.
Fewer costs, fewer overhead, fewer people coming in, fewer headaches. Companies will seek ways to grow their business without clustering their employees, and without encouraging employees to rely on mass-transit to come to work.
Flexible office spaces can rent out space to companies as needed, allowing them to cut costs on space they will no longer require as a larger portion of their workforce works remotely. Larger companies can also spread their forces out between different spaces rather than investing in one large space, allowing them to maintain a greater presence in more cities and regions at once.
4. Cost-Effective and Safe Office Spaces Will Become a Premium
It is neither simple nor cheap to keep an office hygienic and safe during (and after) a pandemic. But coworking businesses are well-positioned to invest heavily in air filtration, individual private offices, better cleaning protocols, and other renovations to implement and enforce social distancing even after a COVID-19 vaccine has dropped.
At first glance, it would seem like a worldwide pandemic would deal a serious blow to the coworking world. After all, it’s a nascent industry, and “shared workplaces” sound less hygienic and more dangerous than the status quo. Furthermore, most of us are still busy staying at home and trying to minimize our contact with other people, and offices (as well as the associated commute) serve as vectors for disease.
But it is exactly that point that makes innovation in the workplace such an important part of the post-COVID world, both during the immediate recovery period and in the long-term. The ‘status quo’ is the corporate open office, a perfect storm for infection and unhygienic behavior, sharing a single HVAC system and lacking the frequent turnover that helps make constant roving cleaning much simpler to schedule and enforce in coworking spaces.