Coworking spaces could very well be the future of the workplace, but right now, they’re in serious danger of surviving the pandemic.
The spread of COVID-19 has imperilled many major coworking companies, including industry leaders like WeWork in the USA. Their offices in New York, for example, are all but empty, and there’s no end in sight as New York has yet to reach the peak number of cases and deaths, so staying at home is the new norm for the foreseeable future.
Coworking companies that hope to survive and then go the distance and turn their fortunes around will need to innovate and change their environments to remain relevant and indeed part of the solution, not the problem. Remember, right now, social distancing of two meters is required as one measure to prevent the community transmission of coronavirus. Will coworking spaces need to abandon their current business model?
Forbes says evolving the coworking model is more accurate. With more workers now forced into remote working, coworking spaces can and should be the answer.
Coworking In The Era Of Social Distancing
When people are socially encouraged and legally obligated to distance themselves from others, how can coworking arrangements survive? After all, coworking is quite literally defined by congregating in a shared workspace with many people who could very well be strangers to you. At first glance, it seems as if COVID-19 will be the end of coworking and some notable companies in particular, though a more in-depth review shows this isn’t unavoidable.
Even before COVID-19, the coworking industry suffered a disastrous blow to its reputation and viability because of WeWork. The most notable coworking company in the United States and one of the most well-recognized globally, though it has been plagued by negative press coverage for years with its sub-leasing model and high debt levels. Lately, that hasn’t changed, and the company now finds itself the target of criticism in its response to the coronavirus outbreak, which some say has been lacklustre and not in the interest of saving lives.
According to a blockbuster report from the New York Times, for example, the company has been sending around an internal memo that’s assuredly going to get it in some hot water. WeWork has been actively trying to lure workers back into its offices despite ongoing social distancing efforts around the nation and in doing so could incur the wrath of regulators, the public, workers, and the companies it holds leases with all at once.
Companies like WeWork, which gained prominence by offering prestigious business locations in London for low prices, however today it’s number one investor is pulling the plug on a rescue deal done back in October 2019. So is there a future for coworking environments?
Changes Must Be Fostered
For the coworking industry to survive, changes must be fostered to change the mindset of its clients, the sole operators and micro businesses.
One opinion piece of the changes required to the industry came out late last year and it highlights the vulnerabilities of short term leases. Now the focus is on what comes next post lockdown. The opportunity exists for coworking providers to meet social distancing requirements and provide a safe haven for work activity outside the home. How the model is rejigged is vital, focusing on profit for the provider and more value for the tenant.
Better connectivity and equipment for video conferencing with super-fast data speed is a good start. Instigating business introductions, sharing of ideas and even offering businesses support networks. A comfortable, safe and tech-driven environment with networking events, albeit adhering to social distancing and other health requirements, including hand sanitizer units in communal spaces, is key to saving this industry from failure.