The COVID-19 outbreak has caused unprecedented disruption to how we work, travel, socialize, and communicate. It has evolved from being a temporary nuisance to a force which has made us relook at the elements of what forms our societies, and thereon our workplaces.
Before the pandemic, co-working was one of the fastest-growing segments in office spaces all over the world. Lockdowns and social distancing have impacted how companies conduct their business. The increase in the number of people working from home or remotely owing to the COVID-19 lockdown has significantly limited the growth of the market. As per one estimate, the global coworking spaces market is expected to decline from $9.27 billion in 2019 and to $8.24 billion in 2020 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -12.9%. Coworking spaces are facing a double whammy – on one side, their customers are struggling and cutting costs by terminating or suspending contracts while on the other side, work-from-home has successfully helped with business continuity, so much so, that over the past few weeks tech giants like Twitter, Google and Facebook have stated that their workforce can work remotely for foreseeable future. Many have started pondering the relevance and need for office spaces.
While the current scenario, full of uncertainty seems to foretell the death and doom of office spaces, we, at YesssWorks, believe that the post lockdown scenario could bring new and interesting opportunities for coworking businesses. The benefits of coworking spaces are well understood. They provide flexible, cost-effective solutions in a modern workplace supporting collaboration and innovation. However, going forward, to remain relevant, coworking spaces will require to think beyond just re-organization of workspaces and making appropriate provisions to ensure regular sanitization of the premises. As lockdown lifts and the professional world returns to normalcy, traditional office setups will not be equipped to address the “new normal” dictated by the pandemic and demanded by the employees.
Coworking spaces with their ingrain flexibility and inherent readiness to add value are best positioned to adapt and re-imagine the future of work utilizing technology and defining new industry standards for safe and productive workspaces.
- Coming out of lockdown, companies are going to be wary of capital expenditures or long-term commitments. Coworking spaces that can provide flexible infrastructure solutions tailored to the clients’ needs will be able to differentiate themselves.
- Innovatively infusing health and safety into their core structures, coworking spaces can set benchmarks for safe and healthy workspaces.
- Coworking spaces can bring in cutting-edge technologies such as contactless biometrics, seamless virtual and physical meeting rooms for collaboration and all-encompassing apps factoring in the current needs and preferences of various audiences, making convenience indispensable.
The debate on whether WFH is the new normal and office spaces a thing of the past will continue well beyond COVID related lockdown. It may be years or decades before we can understand its true impact. However, the future for coworking remains bright as it’s a natural partner for companies looking to transition from Work from Home to ‘Work from Anywhere’ providing the best of both worlds.
(Mihir Shah is Co-Founder of YesssWorks Spaces Pvt. Ltd. Views expressed in the article are of the author.)