With COVID-19 bringing entire nations to a near standstill, many sectors have been severely impacted – including co-working. Many companies operating from a co-working space have already started negotiating their contracts and are looking for more flexible alternatives.
Simply put, co-working business models will need to adapt, and the post lockdown market will look quite different.
“In the short term, there’s quite a lot of pressure on that sector as lockdown has had a very tangible and real impact on occupancy within open co-working and shared space,” says Tom Carroll, JLL’s executive director of EMEA research and strategy. “That’s going to put pressure on some operators, and we expect consolidation and some shifts as that shakes out.”
In light of these troubled times, let’s take a look at three likely effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on co-working spaces as the lockdown eases.
A Stronger Than Ever Before Focus on Workplace Hygiene
Needless to say, co-working spaces will have to step up their game with regards to ensuring workplace hygiene and sanitation. In fact, workplace hygiene will be expected to have top priority over all other factors including costs, appearance, and convenience.
Frequent sanitization of high-frequency touchpoints and ensuring the availability of masks and hand sanitizers are both going to be of utmost importance. Furthermore, sanitation-related co-working policies will need to be created and enforced, along with wall posters about safe social distancing, usage of common spaces such as meeting rooms, and hygiene practices.
After the lockdown, existing companies and freelancers that’ll resume working from their co-working space would expect proper health screening for new joiners of the co-working community. And so, a proper screening process would have to be planned by co-working space providers to ensure the safety of all members of the community.
What’s more, until the beginning of 2020, free health checkups were considered a mere bonus to lure new clients for co-working providers. But now, existing and potential customers will be sure to view sanitization and frequent free health checkups as an important deciding factor when choosing a co-working office.
Change in the Co-Working Space Layout
Next, as startups and small businesses rejoin co-working spaces, they would expect a strict social distancing protocol to be enforced within the workplace. Essentially, this would include maintaining a minimum physical distance between co-workers at all times by having a revised workspace layout and more dispersed work stations.
It could also mean the creation of a new short-term policy that encourages companies to work in shifts so that the co-working space isn’t crowded with co-workers in close contact with each other, thus facilitating social distancing.
Extension of Co-Working Benefits to Remote Workers
The COVID-19 pandemic has inevitably created the largest remote working experiment around the world. As such, remote working is a trend that’s already very much on the rise, and the pandemic is serving to further this trend.
That is, post lockdown, there’ll be many organizations that would encourage employees to continue working from home for the foreseeable future. As a result, co-working spaces may be expected to extend their in-house facilities to accommodate remote working employees as well. So, this is an opportunity for co-working providers to start providing virtual office solutions to their clients to retain their loyalty.
Virtual offices allow companies to access their usual range of services remotely and seamlessly from home. Conveniences such as a business address at the prime location (of the co-working space), free subscriptions to digital tools (such as for video conferencing and collaboration), cloud storage, call answering by a live receptionist, and nearby gym membership for remote workers of the companies that are clients of the co-working space, can all make for a strong virtual co-working service.
A huge surge in demand for such kind of a virtual office from co-working space providers is very likely once the COVID-19 lockdown eases.
All co-working workspace providers are facing a challenging time right now but in the long haul, once the COVID-19 threat subsides, the co-working industry is going to continue thriving.
Co-working will continue to influence traditional office space, as all leases become more flexible, with expansion and contraction clauses to allow clients to alter the amount of space they have around their core requirements. Ultimately, the changes that the pandemic would bring about in co-working spaces would only serve to improve them and make them more salubrious.