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How coworking spaces are staying relevant amid a global pandemicOPINION
by Hannah Freeman, February 2, 2021
COVID-19 has disrupted life as we know in a multitude of ways, particularly when it comes to how we work. Coworking and remote work were on the rise before the pandemic, but now demand for coworking spaces has suffered and spaces are struggling to provide safe desks, equipment, and the professional networking opportunities and events coworking spaces were known for.
The last 15 years have seen collaborative work practices being transformed through the growth of co-working in urban third spaces, maker spaces, fab labs, incubators, accelerators, and digital labs. During and after the Covid-19 pandemic, coworking spaces were stunted because workers were encouraged, and forced, to work at home. Focusing particularly on collaborative workspaces, we concentrate on rebuilding the relationships that thrived in shared workspaces:
- Collaboration and new work practices, all according to the levels of individual,
- Community and societal preferences in spatial and temporal dimensions,
- Rebuilding the once rigid boundaries between waged employment and entrepreneurship
- Rethinking the competencies and prospects of the new collaborative practices that imply fundamental life-work changes and provide collective meaning, crucial to supporting these transformations.
The post-pandemic coworking spaces that will thrive must be orientated towards collaborative practices, professional identity for members, and emotional support that addresses health (both physical and mental) and best-practices around safety. Co-working spaces will have to commit to innovative practices in the “new era” collaborative spaces once office workers feel safe enough to return to a shared office
Ramping Up The Cleanliness Of Shared Spaces
The current hygiene and distancing rules in coworking spaces are easier to introduce since high numbers of people are not expected immediately once spaces reopen. However, members not only want to feel safe but also welcome and comfortable! This is another challenge when it comes to implementing all these measures.
In the past, cleaning was something that happened in the background, mostly when people weren’t occupying the space.
Today, visible cleaning is a necessity in making employees feel comfortable in a shared space. Effective hygiene measures would be critical for employees to feel comfortable in these spaces again. Introducing detailed cleaning protocols with daily antiviral spraying came out as the most popular measure among respondents.
Internal Restrictions And Regulations
Strict regulations a. k. a. wearing masks for the whole working day can make a space less attractive for (potential) members or customers, while physical distancing measures can considerably shrink the potential capacity. Many firms, agencies, and corporations are opting for bigger, and more spacious offices and shared spaces to help employees feel comfortable returning to the office. Some businesses are having only parts of their staff in the office at any time, allowing them to use the same amount of space as before but more socially distant with fewer folks there together.
The new and improved co-working spaces are the perfect solution for companies that need multiple locations with flexible layouts. Coworking can thrive again as companies are forced to restructure and rework their day-to-day operations.
Very large indoor events or meetings are still not likely to be hosted by companies anytime soon Traditionally, coworking spaces were hubs for corporate events, networking, and conference happy hour meetups. By implementing strategies to help members socialize in safe ways, coworking spaces will be able to adapt, catering to the pandemic and anticipated aftershock.
New Safety Measures & Implementation In Co-Working Spaces
Employees crave something safe they can trust.
Many offices have introduced the “6 feet office” concept, helping their clients create safe spaces. The concept includes elements like new and improved rules of conduct for members, unique routing for each office, adapted workstations, and optimized shared facilities. Using technology to revamp your workspace is a no-brainer through:
- automatic doors
- hands-free check-ins, and
- smart lighting
In the post-pandemic world, it wouldn’t be easy for co-working spaces to see the kind of influx they used to witness in the pre-covid times. To get up and running again will require instilling a sense of safety and confidence in users.
Businesses used to perceive remote working or working from home as an occasional occurrence. All thanks to Covid, businesses now know that working from home is an absolute possibility with some clear advantages. Meanwhile, the same businesses and workers have learned the true value of collaboration and fulfillment that comes from being with colleagues in person.
Coworking spaces are in an ideal position in the corporate real estate landscape as businesses start to gradually return to the office. Flexibility in lease terms, desk and office arrangements, and competitive pricing will keep coworking spaces relevant.