Covid-19’s Effects On Coworking Space: Disruptions, Importance, And The Future

In this guide, I delve into the dynamic world of coworking spaces, particularly focusing on the seismic shifts brought about by COVID-19. I explore the evolving concept of coworking, its growth trajectory, and the significant disruptions it faced during the pandemic. The guide sheds light on the critical role coworking spaces played during this crisis and anticipates future trends. This analysis is essential for software buyers and decision-makers, providing insights into how coworking spaces are adapting and what this means for the future of work.
coworking space
coworking space
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An Overview On Co-Working Spaces

The concept of ‘coworking’ has gained significant importance in the past few years. Yet, for many, it is still an illusion. It is essential that we are aware and updated with the latest happenings in regard to co-working spaces to enjoy their benefits and ensure the company’s progress.

But then, the worry is – if the illusion continues, how are we ever going to experience the goodness of co-working spaces?

Therefore, in order to break this illusion, this article leads us through a series of important aspects concerning co-working spaces, right from understanding the concept to the way it is thriving despite the ill effects of the unprecedented pandemic. 

To Start With, What Does Coworking Space Actually Mean?  

Coworking space, generally, is a workplace like an office or any other environment of work where people either working for others or working for themselves (self-employed) meet to have a shared experience of ideas, tools, and knowledge for each other’s benefit.

The ones working in a particular workspace need not be from the same organizations or the same projects. Unlike traditional workplaces, coworking places do not run with many rules and restrictions.

However, it has a few standard practices to make sure that everyone is comfortable and happy. 

Rather than just going by meanings, wouldn’t it definitely be better to know how others describe coworking spaces? There are various definitions given by many experts for the term; however, the definition given by a well-known writer and traveler named Gail Palethorpe is one of my favorites as it gives an explicit idea of coworking space.

Here it is- 

“Coworking is where you can hang out slurping on espresso, take an impromptu nap in a hammock, thrash a partner at a game of ping-pong or totally immerse yourself in your own world of work. You can bounce ideas off someone else’s brain; you can learn a new tech skill or find yourself a mentor or an investor that believes in your idea. Coworking is the new way of working, with the freedom to pick where in the world you want to be when you want to work and who you wish to surround yourself with.”

coworking is the new normal

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How Has Coworking Evolved And Is Growing Over The Years?

Early in 1995, Bernard DeKoven used the term coworking to describe ‘working together as equals’ while in the same year, coworking space was founded by a few hackers in Berlin. A little later, in 2002, an old factory was renovated into a coworking space as a community center for enterprises.

However, all these had different motives, yet with the same name, which in the end has brought forth quite a bit of confusion. But in relevance to what kind of coworking space we are discussing, it began in 2005.

Well, initially, the term “coworking” in reference to a shared work environment was coined in the year 2005 by Brad Neuberg, a heroic entrepreneur with extraordinary dreams.

Creating a coworking space to find the solution for his hunger (actually, the hunger he meant was the dissatisfaction experienced in the traditional offices) turned out to be his passion. And he did succeed in creating the first coworking space in San Francisco.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of familiarization, the first coworking space remained vacant. But gradually, its importance was realized, and many more of such workspaces came into existence as the demand for the same among the people increased.

Today, co-working spaces such as this have gained global attention, and almost all the major cities have one or more such spaces.

According to the forecast made in the year 2016, the increasing demand for coworking spaces has given rise to many, which has resulted in an annual growth rate of about 23.8%. 

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In addition to this, a forecast was also made for the number of members to opt for coworking spaces to increase from 9 lakhs in 2016 to 3 million+ in 2020. The compounded annual growth was estimated to be about 41%.

This has come to fulfillment to a certain extent.

However, there might definitely be slight changes in the statistics, as there was a huge disruption caused due to the pandemic. 

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Another research has stated that the average number of members in each coworking space has roughly doubled in the past 2 years.

However, this is considered to be growing at a slower pace, as per the researchers. And yet, another forecast is made that the average membership might increase to 77% in the next 4 years.

The Disruptions Faced By Coworking Spaces Due To The Pandemic

Although the pandemic was unprecedented, it did not fail to create an impact on the lives of individuals as well as professional lives. With this said, coworking, too, was definitely not an exception.

Compared to 2019, there was a fall of about 10.51% of visitors to coworking spaces in 2020.

And more than 30% have agreed that the pandemic has had a massive impact on these spaces.

Refer to the following image for the same.

Question: How much is your coworking space impacted by the pandemic as we speak?
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Well, in order to understand a little more on the impact that the pandemic had on coworking spaces, a survey was undertaken to identify the different perspectives of the coworkers.

The survey was conducted worldwide, which included Europe, China, Australia, India, The US. And accordingly, the researchers tried to figure out what aspects of coworking spaces had been impacted terribly.

As a result of the survey, the following effects were identified. 

A Significant Drop In The Events, Membership, Etc., Due To WFH

One of the major disruptions of the pandemic was that most of the workforce was expected to start working from home, while co-working spaces expected them to look up to these spaces, the outcome was quite the opposite.

The work from home situation was quite happily embraced by the people, leaving the coworking spaces dangling. 

Question: What is the biggest impact you have suffered so far?
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Thus, the sudden decision of the companies and employees embracing work from home was considered to cause one of the major disruptions to the coworking spaces. Apart from that, due to safety concerns, events were canceled.

However, it didn’t stop here. Instead, even the memberships of the coworking spaces also witnessed a significant drop of about 67%. 

In addition to these findings, there were other reasons, such as the changes in the behaviors, people’s sickness, etc., which also disrupted the coworking’s progress during the crisis.

However, simultaneously, another survey was undertaken, where the results were pretty similar, yet with slight differences in the statistics.

Didn’t want to miss a chance on overlooking any of these, and thus, here are the findings represented in an image. 

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Changing Demands Along With Decreasing Occupancy

As discussed, safety became an ultimate priority more than before, creating another significant effect on coworking spaces.

While sanitizing the place, maintaining social distance among the workers became a necessity more than a choice.

To oblige by the WHO and state’s rules and regulations were mandatory, causing more pressure. Some of the obligations also included the following:

  • Suspension of events and meetings
  • Compulsory use of disinfectants & other sanitary products 
  • Allowing coworkers to take home furniture from the coworking to be able to work remotely
  • Shifting the community’s learnings, events, and discussions online
  • No physical contact. Namaste instead of a handshake and keeping 2 meters distance between members
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With these rules in place, the coworking spaces have stated that the occupancy’s range is about 10-20%. Moreover, it may remain the same if the pandemic’s effect continues.

This is majorly obliged by the state’s rule to cut down the occupants to 50%. And this has led almost every coworking space to deal with the coworkers in terms of square feet, unlike earlier, where the dealings were being done on the basis of per desk per coworker.

Speeding Up The Pace Of Embracing Technology

Whether or not for the pandemic, embracing technology was considered as a need more than a want. But the difference here is that the pace at which the coworking spaces were expected to embrace technology was indeed tremendous. In this matter, integrating the best task management software can facilitate seamless operations and enhance productivity.

There was hardly any choice, and the lack of technology meant that there were very few chances of survival in the market.

This scenario is what has caused another disruption for the coworking spaces. 

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Like any other working space, coworking too was shifted to virtual connection with a matter of just a few days. Apart from the initial virtual meets, when the coworkers gradually started coming to the workspace, safety was a priority. And for safety’s sake, various other technologies were of great requirement.

These included touch-less attendance systems, facial recognition devices, and other contactless technologies to ensure minimal physical contact among coworkers. 

There indeed was a tremendous development of technology that has played the role of a rescuer. However, the speed at which it was expected to embrace was much more than what a few coworking spaces could bear.

This instant demand due to the pandemic has, in fact, led to the closure of many coworking spaces while a few struggled to survive. 

Importance Of Coworking Spaces During The Time Of Crisis

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So far, we have discussed the various ways that the pandemic has disrupted coworking spaces. However, these workspaces have played a very significant role during the crisis, which at times are overlooked.

But then, the unknown has to be made known for the benefits of many. How many would believe it if it was said that – “coworking spaces are redefining the liveliness in business”?

Whether agreed upon or not, it indeed is true. Hence, in the next few minutes, let us discuss the benefits or importance of workspaces in regaining the liveliness of the “work” factor. 

Reimagining The Community Behavior

One of the most predominant roles of the coworking spaces is observed in regards to rebuilding the community. As everyone is aware, the pandemic has put us all in a state where each individual is mostly affected mentally than physically.

A kind of fear has seized through our lives, leaving very little hope.

In short, mental morale or the spirit of willingness is brought down to an unimaginable extent because of the worry that has crept in about the future. But however, coworking, as said, is playing a key role in gathering as many aspirants as possible.

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Those who come together are provided with an opportunity to share their views, reconnect with people, and work on rebuilding their dreams that might have seemed to be lost otherwise due to the pandemic.

Well, all this is done still keeping in mind the covid-19’s norms to curtail its spread.

As proof of this, in the 2020’s report submitted by LaunchPad, it is stated that – across the 5 locations, their member businesses have succeeded in -.

  • Creating 9000+ jobs 
  • Raising more than $230 million in their equity capital
  • And have leased 1 million+ sq. ft. of commercial real estate.

Thus, coworking spaces are focused on recreating the livelihood of the people for mutual benefit.

They Have Been Key Players In Promoting The New Start-Ups

As discussed earlier, the mental stress caused by the pandemic has made the individuals give up on a lot of their dreams and stuff. But with people coming up and meeting in the coworking spaces has filled many with a lot of hope and encouragement.

And due to the community rebuilding and sharing of thoughts and ideas, a new way has been put forth by the coworking spaces in nurturing new entrepreneurs. 

However, the coworking space’s role doesn’t just end there after idea generation. Instead, at these difficult times, it would be difficult for the budding businessmen to find their office to begin their venture.

Again, the rescue role is worn by these spaces that provide them the opportunity, platform, as well as means to get started. 

The Pillar Of Support To Small Business Enterprises

It is often misunderstood that coworking spaces are meant only to serve the needs of those working remotely. But more than that, they play a crucial role in sustaining small businesses. This also includes the sole entrepreneurs, self-employed, etc.

Although the emergence of remote working or work from home was appealing to many, the ones who suffered the most were those who belonged to the small business units.

Especially the lack of resources has indeed created huge gaps to the extent of leading to the inability of coping up. 

Again, the coworking spaces positioned themselves in deliberately offering space as well as resources for work which was a tremendous help towards the small businesses.

A good and healthy relationship was witnessed to be built and strived for mutual success.

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Well Then, What Are The Expectations For The Future Of Coworking Spaces?

Any effort’s success is measured by the consistency and ability to move forward. Similarly, with coworking in place and its improvement in efforts and strategies, it is impossible not to think of its future.

Although the disruptions were pretty bad and hard, they have strived and thrived to survive.

But, what to expect in the future? – Didn’t this pop in your mind?

Well, there might be various opinions on this, but here are a few significant ones to have a basic idea on the future of coworking space.

Coworking – Might Be The Future’s  Most Prefered Workspace 

There are many studies that predict coworking spaces might experience an upper hand compared to traditional workplaces. Especially after the covid’s impact, where the importance of coworking spaces is much realized as thought in the bright day’s light due to the pandemic.

One of the important reasons is that any development has a turning back, no matter what.

And the advantages of embracing coworking spaces are seen as an addition to competitive edge and cost-effective. With this said, the industry is about to receive huge recognition and will indeed prove to be a profitable one very soon.

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A Stronger Focus On Safety And Hygiene Is For Sure

The very fact that we are in the discussion concerning the pandemic makes it evident that safety and hygiene would be on the priority list. And there are definitely no second thoughts on it.

Sanitizing and maintaining cleanliness might be immensely far from comprising. Coworking spaces might introduce posters and brochures in the office to promote tips and advice like regular washing and sanitizing of hands for the overall betterment of the space as well as coworkers.

There are also talks that are already on to introduce regular health check-ups for the coworkers, whether agreed upon or not.

While such campaigns were considered as just perks to attract candidates, now-onwards would be turning out as necessities to look for in a workspace.

Collaboration Between Coworking And Remote Working May Be Witnessed

It’s quite impossible to overlook that along with the increasing importance of coworking; remote working is also becoming very significant.

This scenario has made the researchers predict that there could be possibilities of collaboration with renewed sign-ups and different perks.

The collaboration can be in terms of partial presence, shared resources, gym, and so on.

This is to ensure that those who are capable of the collaboration aren’t missed out but are again engaged for shared benefits.

Let’s Wrap Up

No doubt if it feels like we are still very far from completely recovering from the pandemic and its effects.

But however, if we could look straight in the long run, it is quite impossible not to make any efforts to withstand the crisis.

And in that way, coworking spaces have been observed to be quick enough to adopt, embrace, and fight the struggles willingly for their success. And today, they have indeed positioned themselves in such a way to feel the need for them even in the future.

Isn’t it incredible? Well, indeed it is. Thus, redefine your strategies and identify how you can benefit from the coworking spaces right now.

K Srivastava
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