Flexible workers need flexible workspaces 

Why it’s wrong to write off coworking

We have been welcoming back clients this Summer and busily preparing for some new arrivals in September.  Companies are now encouraging agile, out of office working promoting staggered days in the office and remote meetings via videoconferencing.  Meanwhile, many workers will have made the decision to seek self employment and become freelancers working independently.  A recent study of workers by Hubble (1) found that over 70% of respondents believe that their company should still have an office in the future.

The traditional benefits of WFO ( Working From the Office ) have not changed in 2020.  In previous articles I’ve written about the importance of physical workspaces that offer room to concentrate and provide opportunities for workers to adopt a healthy work / life balance.  Companies have the opportunity to recruit, train and build a company culture.  Following a number of chats with members at altspace and local business owners there is a really positive sentiment about returning to the office.  However, despite this I’ve heard and read a lot about the coworking industry being threatened.  I’m told hotdesking will fade out and that the sharing economy is over, as people seek more privacy and isolation.

My response to this is that the coworking spaces that deliver flexible solutions and collaborative opportunities will grow in numbers despite the Covid 19 pandemic.  Provided that risk assessments are met and that a diligent approach to social distancing is maintained many shared offices will do just fine.   The reasons for this is that we have established our businesses by focusing on offering true value to the user.  Coworking operators have revolutionised the traditional, commercial letting model introducing flexibility in a previously bureaucratic industry.  Many independent operations have had to be open to new ideas and flexiblilty.   Accordingly we are well suited to withstand a downturn or recession because we have had to hustle from day one to compete and survive.

The largest UK provider of office space is IWG ( International Work Group 2 ) and they are now championing the regions and suburbs.  They know how to dress for the weather by highlighting that two thirds of their 350 locations are based outside of the major Cities in the UK.  Their closest competitors WeWork meanwhile are reliant on locations in London and Manchester.  It’s important not to look at an empty workspace in the City and make a generalisation on our industry.  There will be a migration of companies and workers however I cannot foresee this leading to a funeral march for operators in the conurbations or for serviced offices in general.

The majority of independent coworking spaces have by necessity been located on the fringes and in the regions.  I’m forecasting that these markets will grow as local people look for flexible workspaces.  Many indies are often not profit led preferring community engagement and collaboration as metrics of success.  Personally I would rather over deliver on value than write punitive invoices at the end of each month for printer use and phone answering.  I’m not unique with other space managers practicing the same set of ethics.  Why don’t you visit your local independent coworking spaces to experience the benefits of this flexible approach?

  1. Hubble– What Are Your Workspace Options? Aug 20
  2. IWG– Guardian Aug 20