Coworking Spaces, COVID-19 and the aftermath: how flexible office spaces will be key to rebuild the economy
The times are hard and dire. The amount of uncertainty clouding our heads and those of the leaders of pretty much any business right now is tough to deal with, there is no see trough. But one thing is certain, to get back on our feet, creativity, flexibility and cost-effectiveness will be key for those who haven’t shut their doors — yet.
Corporations have long been extremely careful about their cash-flow and it is no doubt necessary, but corporations and other medium to large businesses have also been known to splurge when the economy is booming. I have also seen corporations making the wrong type of cuts, while they keep a 600 sqft boardroom, they choose to cut that awesome employee who actually generates revenue for the company. If we talk about Toronto commercial real estate prices, in a prestige address area and building, this room ALONE can cost approximately $42k per year in rent, maybe more. A much less attractive address and envelope, and much smaller room (240 sqft) will cost you around $11k per year. The one thing in common for both of them is: they sit empty most of the time.
That’s money literally thrown out of the window.
Have I gotten your attention now?
We have gone into totally unpredictable times, in which we don’t just have a recession (yes, it’s already here — STOP lying to yourself), but we also might go into a depression if this horror show lasts a little too long. Brace yourself.
This recession is special though, we are currently unable to use any of our power/knowledge to create new revenue. If your business can’t happen online, you probably are in bad shape. If you just happened to switch to on-line and remote, gosh, only God knows the craziness your operations are dealing with.
Our businesses are prepared for recession, not for shutdown. The economy is at a stall and don’t get me wrong, this can happen again — and it will. You know, life and nature (with a little support of human panicking or too much excitement), have been quite creative at bringing new challenging times in.
Luckily, now that we’ve had the real-life lesson of things going extremely wrong, it’s time to set the tone right and be prepared for the future. My favorite quote has always been “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst”. Guess that’s a Quality Management thing, my area of expertise.
I know you are asking and wondering what exactly it is the role that flexible office spaces will play in the economy recovery, and I can tell you, it is more than one. If you got lucky to have your lease up in the next 6 months or so, my best advice to you, look for a Coworking Space near you and strike a good deal for your come back. This will probably save your business.
Why a Coworking Space and Why Now?
1 — Contract Flexibility
Are you suffering with a 5 year lease you can’t pay because of lack of revenue? Are you about to sign a new lease? Have you realized just how much debt you can get into (or already are)? Well, companies of all sizes which have joined a coworking space have now enjoyed year-to-year commitments and many of them month-to-month. That is, if you needed to cancel and send your whole team home, it would most likely be a no brainer. Also, the ability of up-sizing or downsizing quickly as your operations demands is something only a Coworking Space can offer.
We, business people, have always said that we should be able to respond quickly to market changes. If everything else requires a — quick — response, why is it that your real estate obligations are as static as the Rock Mountains? There was a time when you had no choice. Now you do. Make the right one.
If a company has to close its business because it can’t survive these new plagued times, the use of a flexible office space will only make this burden less heavy.
2 — Quality and Cost of Resources
True high-speed internet with 1GB fibre connection costs at least 15k a year. It also generally comes with a 5-year contract. If you put it into perspective, that’s 75k over the course of 5 years that could have been spent somewhere else. A Coworking Space with decent internet speed will offer you this service at a fraction of the price, you won’t even feel it.
3 — No More Wasted Real Estate
I know, when you leased your office you had a vision, a dream. We all get it. But you know what, waste is a thing of the past. It’s tacky. Big kitchens and cafeterias, reception, common areas, meeting rooms, training facilities, ONLY take space. They are all a nice to have, but they cost $$$, big time. If that’s not the heart of your business, just accept it, you don’t need it. So, let’s be clear, unless your business is taking full advantage of these facilities for at least 80% of the time, money is going to waste and that’s a shame. Remember how much that cost at the beginning of this article? That money could have gone into the marketing budget, better IT structure (some businesses are having a hard time adjusting their system to allow work to be done from home), you name it.
Oh, and just in case you’ve said you can’t hire that person or give someone a raise, remember the waste of money above. Shouldn’t that set the record straight?
In a Coworking Space you pay just for what you use. Why rent 2000 sqft when all you need is 500 or less? This accounts for 5 10x10 ft offices. That’s a lot of space, fits 10 people —comfortably. Even if you need a bit more, these spaces can fit entire teams, with most providers being able to hold up to 25 people from one company alone.
With so many rooms available from inside Coworking Spaces and Business Centres you can easily obtain a meeting room membership and run most meetings or the bigger ones in their facilities.
The use of these facilities will even make the meetings/training, etc, more productive: we all want to head back to our desks as soon as we can to take care of what’s waiting on our to-do-lists. Using a space that is off-site is the best investment you can make in a meeting, there are no interruptions, no distractions. This is a fully immersive experience. Now, just get the job done.
4 — Better Allocation of Human Resources
The salary of a front-desk person or receptionist starts at $30k a year. If you need a receptionist, it means your business probably experiences a good volume of calls and/or enjoys a considerable number of visitors. Many companies hire an Administrative Assistant instead, so she/he can carry out other supporting activities while not on the phone and dealing with visitors, which brings the salary of this person to a minimum of $45k a year. Mind you, these professionals get frequently interrupted and productivity may not be as expected.
A well-structured coworking space offers live phone answering services and a receptionist, these services range from $60 to $120 dollars per month. Even if you do not use the coworking space as an office, you can still use their services to answer and forward the calls to you and to your team. They also offer conferencing systems and the ability to make calls from that phone number yourself so you don’t have to use your personal cellphone number for business.
Independent of your choice, now you can have the resources and time of your Assistant directed to more value adding tasks, with much less interruption. And if you enjoy the Coworking Space as an office, the coworking receptionist will take on greeting and checking visitors in, which ensures your team is 100% involved in value adding activities.
5 — Unburden Busy Office Spaces
Once businesses are able to get back to “normal” life, it is probably not going to come back in full steam. Many businesses may want to keep their offices less busy or downsize to save on some costs, but so many employees will just be begging to work out of the house for a change. That will probably be a constant. Larger Coworking Spaces (in space size) can offer a Corporate package, so any of your employees can just drop-in whenever they want a break from the house or access to a better setting that will make them (more) productive.
6 — Businesses might be going 100% remote but still need a professional image
Businesses have been forced to send workers home and while the road probably had its bumps and holes, some may decide that this is a setting that shall be continued from now on. While most of the work can be done remotely, there always are those clients, team meetings, training sessions and events that need to be held in person. Plus, there is need for a business address to keep your business on the map taking care of your geographical reach and your Google rankings.
Coworking Spaces offer business address memberships so you can have your mail coming to a professional address, while they also give you access to their facilities for a day in the office/workspace or to use a conference-room whenever needed.
Plus, if you want to cover different geographical areas and grow your business, you can always add another business address from a coworking space located in the other side of the city or in another province, as an example.
7 — Balance: Community & Flexibility
There is a reason most people prefer to work from offices, and seeing other faces is one of them. While we all try to work from home, it is important to remember that humans are social beings. Yes, there are some introverts out there, but the truth is that mostly, people like to be around people. We don’t only like it, we need it. Loneliness and isolation have long been proven to be harmful to our body and mental health. While we can all band-aid loneliness with virtual rooms, zoom calls and face time, nothing will replace the effectiveness and impact from face-to-face in person interactions.
So, if your company has decided to downsize or go remote and has sent people to work from home on a partial or full time basis, giving them the choice of joining a coworking space (and paying for it) will only make your remote work policies more effective. Please note that remote workers have long gone to coffee shops in order to get out of the house and get more work done. If that was a good enough alternative, Coworking Spaces wouldn’t have come to life.
Among the so many downsides of working out of coffee shops, mainly, there is the lack of structure: slow and unreliable internet connection, lack of or improper sitting area, no privacy, no security, poor cleanliness, poor lighting and low comfort. Ultimately, there is also a huge absence of human interaction with other people in a coffee shop. It is not like you are going make friends with people sitting beside you. it happens, but it is not comparable to the connections made within a coworking space.
A Coworking Space will cover all the above issues with mastery. There are plenty of events and adequate structure plus unlimited coffee, tea, and some even offer snacks.
The best news here is: your employees may even become more productive, FROM HOME. Giving employees the option of going to a Coworking Space whenever they want to, eases the “burden” of isolation in their minds, replacing it with a sense of freedom: if they need to get out and go somewhere, they have that option. A place that is close to home, is good for getting work done, but more importantly, is free of the pressure that the actual headquarters would put on their shoulders. Research shows that people feel a lot more comfortable in coworking spaces than at the usual office setting for a few reasons but one of them being: ability to be and act as themselves. In other words: freedom!
When I opened Touchdown Coworking Space, I never saw coworking the way most people saw it, it is much more than just a workspace. The benefits of using coworking services go beyond cutting costs, they go right right at allowing you to allocate resources where they are needed the most. While cost consideration is always a must, above I have expressed so many other ways in which Coworking Spaces impact your business, for the better. If you just took a little time to account and estimate all the costs, benefits and investments from above, you get my point.
In conclusion, if operational effectiveness is a thing in your business, then, more than ever, a Coworking Space is in order.