With the coworking model taking a hit due to the pandemic, operators have the unenviable task of finding new ways to attract more people to use their coworking spaces.
The challenge is to get freelancers and remote workers to assemble into their spaces while observing social distancing to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. But for operators to succeed in their attempt to get back in business, they need to revamp the model that served them well through the years. Instead of having people work in a lounge room with desks, they need to reimagine coworking as a space to circumvent the pandemic threat.
In this post, you will learn how operators are working around the concept of coworking without abandoning the spirit that made it successful in the first place.
Finding out about the new ideas and initiatives that coworking operators have adapted worldwide will also give you ideas on how to breathe new life into your coworking space.
Coworking Gets Creative
Given that working in enclosed spaces could promote the spread of the virus, coworking spaces have to be extra careful about the health and well-being of each member. However, the situation could also present itself as an opportunity to show people that safety precautions are observed at all times, even if it means taking creative measures.
The use of temperature scanning and contact tracing may not be widespread just yet. But implementation of these technological solutions could help hasten in improving the overall safety of coworking spaces. The more coworking spaces embrace the idea of promoting health as a top priority, the sooner people will return and conduct business in coworking spaces.
At the same time, you want to offer something unique and different to encourage people to come back to coworking spaces. We Toke Club is as unique as it can get—it’s a cannabis-friendly space for remote and freelance workers in the Chicago area.
At this one-of-a-kind coworking space, members are actually encouraged to smoke and consume edibles while at work, both of which are available on location. More importantly, this creative option for coworking provides a safe space for weed lovers to share their passion while getting work done at the same time.
Break Down the Walls
Building upon the idea of a healthier coworking space, coworking operators can set up an open space virtually anywhere and draw in people to work in that area.
For example, Brazil has over 200 coworking spaces on rooftops. The constantly-moving fresh air prevents droplets from circulating in the same area for prolonged periods. This way, more people can continue working without worrying much about their safety.
Aside from the reason above, open-air coworking spaces boast other benefits. For one, it increases creativity. In her book “The Healthy Workplace: How to Improve the Well-Being of Your Employees—and Boost Your Company’s Bottom Line,” Leigh Stringer said that the view of the sky provides for an informal setting that unlocks our creative side from our childhood playtimes.
Moreover, rooftop coworking allows employees to take advantage of a natural environment. Stepping outside of the familiarity of a working environment affords members the mental stimulation that will theoretically help them get through the day in a more productive manner.
Create an Experiential Reality
Reimaging coworking spaces outside the confines of the standard practices and the current situation can also provide people with a transformative experience.
Generally speaking, coworking spaces are typically associated with desks, tables, and unlimited coffee. But some of them feel just like a dreary office space that you swore you wouldn’t want to get back to.
The purpose of working outside the 9-5 job and becoming a freelancer means freeing yourself from the confines of cubicles and a lack of privacy. After quitting your job, the last thing you want is to work at a coworking space that looks exactly like the office from your previous job.
The coworking space concept in the Finnish city of Lahti has set open-air remote desks in the forest. Taking your work into the wilderness, this setup offers an escape for people who have lived much of their adult life sitting behind a desk.
The kicker here is there is no internet connection where the remote desks are set up, save for the occasional data signal from your mobile device. So, if your work depends on staying online, then these workstations won’t have much value.
However, some of the desks are situated to view Lake Vesijärvi, which has undergone remediation efforts multiple times. Aside from its magnificent and peaceful view, it serves as a reminder that it’s sometimes better to disconnect from the online world to get in better touch with the natural world.
Another coworking space that went with the outdoor approach is Treework by Busch Light. Located in the woodlands of Colorado, the ventilated outdoor office space is complete with strong Wi-Fi, on-site grills, and Busch Light beers to help simulate the outdoor lifestyle.
The concept of taking work outside of the workplace feels more like a novel concept instead of a practical one. Nonetheless, the examples above should give you ideas on how coworking as a business model is not limited to our preconceived notions.
Virtual coworking spaces have been in vogue since the start of this year. It serves the same purpose as a regular coworking space and simulates the experience of being in one. People working at home are assigned a virtual desk in a floor plan and can go to different places like phone booths and meeting rooms. From here, they can interact with other people sharing the same virtual floor plan.
Signing up for a virtual coworking plan includes having a physical address to receive mail lobby directory listings and live receptionist services.
The difference with the virtual model is that the limitations of physical space do not confine it. It can accommodate as many people as possible from different locations—you can have hundreds of people occupying the same virtual space without feeling cramped.
For coworking operators, setting up a member-based virtual coworking space allows you to continue doing business with your clientele without dealing with the hassle of social distancing and observing safety precautions all the time.
At the same time, a virtual space is not without its challenges, which is similar to the issues that remote teams experience. Building a sense of community with your virtual members could be difficult and require you to develop different ways to engage them. Also, since there is no face-to-face interaction, it’s difficult to foster a deep sense of community.
Let Artificial Intelligence Do the Heavy Lifting
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been digging its toes with how we live our lives. From smart appliances to tools like Jarvis that help automate digital marketing, AI is developing into becoming an indispensable part of our lives.
The same can be said about AI concerning coworking spaces. While some are afraid that AI will take jobs away from people, especially in digital marketing, it can present benefits that help coworking operators maximize their business.
As an operator, you want to automate menial tasks such as keeping records and data regarding members. You also want artificial intelligence to improve and forecast your budget to help you understand your profits and expenses.
Having this information at your fingertips allows you to make the necessary changes in your operations to cut costs and focus on turning in a profit.
In this case, you can tap onto the internet of things (IoT) from the smart devices you use in your coworking space. Set them to turn on and off at specified times to help you save energy and improve efficiency.
The most interesting thing about AI is we’re barely scratching the surface as to what it can do. As mentioned, Bluetooth tracking for social distancing and airborne pathogen detectors would be possible soon via 5G connectivity. This way, it can make going to a physical coworking space completely possible again.
Preparing for an Even More Flexible Coworking Model
Coworking as a business model will remain resilient as long as they are people looking to find a place to continue doing their work and staying productive.
The changes that coworking underwent over the past few years is a wake-up call that the idea of what coworking is is not the same as what coworking could be. By breaking down conventions, the coworking model can adapt and change alongside the conditions that built it.
Among the iterations to the coworking model, the virtual approach is one that really stands out. While it’s not the perfect model by any means, it is the most resistant to the potential changes that could take place in our society and environment. For this setup to work, people need to be entirely well-versed in the process of working virtually. For example, they should be aware that their safety can be compromised when logged in at a virtual space at their home. That’s why members would need to set up a VPN to share sensitive data online without the risk of getting the information stolen or their accounts hacked.
And when sharing passwords, instead of messaging the naked password to your team, use LastPass to protect your passwords and share them across your team members using encryption.
Also, you need to use collaboration tools to help facilitate your business seamlessly if you’re working with other people in the shared space. For publishers, you need to use plugins that allow you to manage multiple authors at the same time without problems.
Finally, when it comes to processing documents, you can use online signatures to eliminate the process of printing out papers. This innovation also helps you work seamlessly with other people in the virtual workspace.
All these things factor into the trend of the coworking model being more adaptable than you think. With coworking operators announcing creative offerings and unique solutions to members all across the world, the industry is poised for new adaptive models that will carry organizations into the future.