- Coworking spaces refer to facilities that house people from different companies or organizations working under one roof. These spaces are arranged like a traditional office setting, complete with office necessities like Wi-Fi, conference rooms, and pantries. The only difference is that they’re neutral grounds: no one company owns the place (except for whoever’s managing the space).
As coworking involves physical contact, coworking spaces took a big hit during the first year of the COVID-19 crisis. Despite this, recent market analysis reports that these spaces are poised to double in number by 2024. The expected bump in market size, from USD$8.14 billion this year to USD$13.03 billion in 2025, means more businesses will be dependent on them. (1)
Starting a business or keeping a startup alive in these times is difficult. However, even a startup can make ends meet by taking the ideal steps like situating it in a coworking space. Here are a few reasons to consider a coworking setup:
Work-From-Home Can Be Hard
COVID-19’s high infectivity rate has forced businesses to move their operations to work-from-home and other remote setups. The transition hasn’t been easy, and those that couldn’t adapt to this new reality simply closed their doors for good.
But for people who value work-life balance a lot, working from home can be quite the challenge. Employees in this setup can find themselves facing a slew of problems such as:
- Distractions at home (e.g., streaming, rowdy children)
- Lack of social interaction with fellow team members
- Tech issues, namely an unstable internet connection
- Inconsistent or delayed salaries
- Being accused of not working
- Difficulties in building team rapport
Because they’re basically offices, coworking spaces Seattle workers and those from other areas don’t have most of these issues. People don’t have to worry about background noises that annoy them at home and their internet connection cutting out every few minutes. On top of that, no one can accuse anyone of being lazy if they’re in plain sight of one another.
While coworking will put people at risk of COVID, coworking spaces are well aware of this and have undergone revamping over the past year. One example is the so-called ‘six feet office,’ where people and amenities are at least six feet apart. They’re also incorporating hands-free features, such as automatic doors and intelligent lighting.
Work Better Together
On the matter of seeing each other personally, people in coworking spaces get more quality work done. The lack of distractions is one of many factors influencing overall productivity. According to an article published in the Harvard Business Review:
- People in coworking spaces don’t face as much competition as in their offices, as they come from various organizations. As such, they’re not as obligated to wear the proper work persona.
- Being exposed to other workers with diverse skillsets means learning from one another, improving work quality. The communal nature also means everyone feels like they’re part of a solid community.
- Most coworking spaces operate 24/7, so people can choose when they feel like working. These facilities take it one step further by enabling time tracking on the organization’s behalf, among others.
Community building is a crucial aspect many coworking spaces have been building since the pandemic began. They outlined their social goals for the current status quo in the Coworking Manifesto, some of which include:
- Collaboration over competition
- Participation over observation
- Friendship over formality
- Learning over expertise
- Boldness over assurance
Freelances Will Be The Majority
In the first year of the pandemic, many freelancers found themselves with little or nothing to do as demand for their services dropped immensely. With the gradual rollout of the COVID vaccine and other health and safety measures, many believe that they’ll find plenty of jobs to go around.
They may be right about the uptick in demand. The economic impact of the pandemic has forced businesses to rethink and revamp their employment doctrine. In one survey of business leaders and employees, a third of them said they’re favoring contract jobs over full-time ones to cut costs. Small and medium enterprises should consider this, given that they have limited capital.
Freelancing isn’t going away anytime soon, especially freelancers working in coworking spaces. In one study, freelancers comprised over 40% of people in coworking spaces in 2019, with full-time corporate employees close at second. At the rate it’s growing, freelancers are expected to comprise half of a typical company’s workforce by 2027. (5)
Startups and freelancers both win in a coworking setting. Startups can save money on freelancing contracts, while freelancers can diversify their craft through interaction with other people in the coworking space.
Not Everyone Has the Tools
These days, setting up a remote workstation is as easy as getting a reliable computer and Internet connection. From there, users can set up the programs necessary for their work, be it office suites or media editing software. Despite computers and other digital devices being commonplace, not everyone has access to them.
Take internet access, for example. Only 90% of users in North America (sans Mexico) have it, with the majority being in the U.S. Startups may not have trouble looking for people with such access, but there’s still a 10% chance that they may find some who don’t.
Startups looking to employ people from other parts of the world (via remote setups) may see internet access as a more pressing issue. While Asia has the largest share of internet users at 54.9%, its penetration rate is below the world average of 65.6%. Remember that these figures don’t talk about connection reliability, which is another thing to consider.
Not only do coworking spaces provide internet access, but they also provide fast ones. A 2018 study reports that every eight spaces have a rated internet speed of over 500 Mbps and have one access point for every 1,000 square feet. Naturally, the more expansive the coworking space, the faster the internet.
In this case, employees who signed up with coworking spaces won’t need to spend for personal internet access. However, the spaces don’t usually provide computer terminals, so it’s still up to the startup or the worker to provide one.
- Shared Spaces Are the Future
Even as the world slowly resumes normalcy under the threat of COVID, nothing is certain about the return to the office. Just as it thought the pandemic was winding down, new strains, such as the more contagious Delta variant challenge that view. As a result, office vacancies are putting a strain on businesses big and small.
One report states that U.S. office vacancy rates in the second quarter of 2021 rose to 18.5%, near the record high of 19.7% in 1991. While this year has shown some signs of recovery, total leased space has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, let alone on the first quarter of 2020.
The economic implications COVID has imposed upon doing business, namely the rise of remote work arrangements, means the company office is going unused. Big companies are leaning more on shared spaces and less on their pre-pandemic offices owing to these changes. For some, they want to give their people another option apart from working from home.
Among small businesses, shared spaces are growing to be the preferred property. One office realty firm in New York said they experienced a rise in sales and inquiries since July. Most of these businesses are unsure if it’s safe to return to the office, much like their medium and large counterparts.
Startups will see more shared spaces in the market, which they should consider seriously. With the pandemic not ending anytime soon, the coworking space may be their best bet in surviving the rigors of a pandemic-stricken economy.
- Promotes Mental Wellness
It’s worth noting that COVID, to some extent, affected mental health as much as physical health. Quarantines and physical distancing procedures meant that friends and relatives couldn’t meet in person throughout the first year of the pandemic. When a person is exposed to a traumatic event, their peers are unable to give them support.
As mentioned earlier, coworking spaces foster a sense of community, even if the people turn out to be strangers. Apart from professional help, these facilities encourage interaction that mitigates the effects of loneliness, which spiked during the first year. This level of interaction is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve in a work-from-home setup.
Experts recommend taking advantage of coworking spaces whenever possible to help manage their mental wellness. Access to reliable internet and other support services can mitigate stress, another negative emotion fostered during social isolation. A person with a clear mind can get a lot of top-notch work done.
With access to reliable office tools, especially internet access, and cost savings, coworking spaces are shaping up to be the next office. It’s essential for businesses, namely startups, to invest in these facilities, given the effect of the ongoing health crisis on the world. Even those with work-from-home setups should consider them to manage the welfare of their people.
- “32 Surprising Coworking Space Statistics in 2021 – What’s Changed?” https://ergonomictrends.com/coworking-space-statistics/
- “9 of the most challenging things about working remotely, according to people who do it,” https://www.businessinsider.com/working-remote-challenges-work-from-home-2019-10
- “Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces,” https://hbr.org/2015/05/why-people-thrive-in-coworking-spaces
- “Coworking Manifesto (global – for the world),” https://wiki.coworking.org/w/page/35382594/Coworking%20Manifesto%20%28global%20-%20for%20the%20world%29
- “Are You a Freelancer? Here Are 5 Reasons to Use a Coworking Space,” https://talentgarden.org/en/innovation/are-you-a-freelancer-here-are-5-reasons-to-use-a-coworking-space/