The future of the Office

2020-11-29

In these times the future if the office has become a much debated topic. With our 10+ years of experience from coworking, we wanted to give some insights and perspective. Sofia Nilsson has done an overview over what we and other experts think.


HOW HAS COWORKING BEEN AFFECTED

It is no surprise that the covid-19 pandemic has left its mark on the co-working industry. Along with the rest of the world, co-working spaces have experienced a temporary but rapid change resulting in varying amounts of loss in revenue including companies having to end memberships. However, as essentially all industries have had to rethink how to conduct business, how has this pandemic left its mark on the future of co-working?


There are certain trends within the field that were already occurring concerning the type of company that tends to opt for co-working spaces such as freelancers and remote workers. As a natural result of the pandemic Karsten Deppert, from Mindpark, predicts that more new companies starting up will be remote. An established office based company faces many challenges during a restructure from the classic office to a remote model which has been highlighted during 2020. A way to bypass the crises of such a restructure for newer companies would be to not be placebound. Through this, more industries than the original IT and tech industries will allow remote work models and may turn towards co-working spaces for their physical business base. To accommodate for these industries co-working spaces need to be more industry specialized, rather than just being an office landscape with general addons, claims Worklab.


Another trend is that the classic office space work model has slowly started to diverge into two different versions which Deppert refers to as “high trust” and “low trust” models. Companies with a high level of trust in their employees allow for a more flexible workstyle both in regards to the hours as well as location, while companies with a low level of trust are more restrictive with these kinds of liberal settings. Taking into consideration that more and more companies might turn to a remote work model, either as a consequence of the covid-19 pandemic or in order to gain competitive advantage, one could wonder if the companies characterized by a low level of trust also might be forced to abandon this mindset and have no choice but to trust its employees or may face losing employees to companies with a high trust mindset. This, in turn, might lead us towards an era of autonomy thus emphasizing the importance of the co-working industry.


Something to further develop on, perhaps, regarding covid’s impact on the future of co-working: covid-19 calls for a need for social distancing. Constantly working from home in isolation increases mental health issues which means that we are desperate for other alternatives where social distancing is still possible. The upside of co-working locations is the flexibility: not everybody has to be “on-site” from 9 til’ 5, one can choose to work from home a couple of hours, and remote for a couple of hours. Not everyone has to be there at the same time (call it working in intervals, if you will). This facilitates social interaction, even if only briefly, as well as motivation through creating new routines, getting up in the morning, and leaving your house. This option will also relieve the actual company offices by reducing the amount of employees going into the office.


Another viewpoint from the Covid-19 changes to the industry is regarding the health & safety of the spaces. Bill Kerr, professor at Harvard Business School talks of the switch in the definition of a “world-class facility” for co-working. Prior to the pandemic, this meant high-end computing infrastructure, interior and other perks. Now, however there will be a call to put heavy focus on the quality and health of the environment. Co-working spaces may even make their facilities stand out as the safer option throughout these pressed situations through contact tracing development and other solutions for health security.


As a conclusion, though as always unable to make a certain prognosis in uncertain times like these, it seems that there will be a continuous need for development within coworking spaces. To look at further needs, both on a health level as well as a broader mindset focus regarding the industries now beginning to enter co-working spaces as their main work places. A sort of co-work mindset beyond the original co-working space to integrate this sort of thinking both within the spaces and outside of the physical space. It seems the journey for co-working is only just beginning, team work does make the dream work. It is only a matter of what that dream may look like.