Is the co-working movement about to get a boost?

As we all consider what the future will look like for our businesses, could we see an even bigger resurgence for co-working in the coming months?

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When we look back at the relative calm of 2019, the popularity of flexible working had reached a point where it was being heralded as the “new normal”, with over 50%1 of employees in global businesses saying that they worked outside of their main office for more than half the week.

While some people’s flexible working reality was still limited to adaptable working hours or the ability to work from home on occasion, other businesses were progressing to more of a hybrid setup where workers were splitting their time between their traditional office, their home office and some sort of co-working space2.

But then the world changed. For some weeks, a large proportion of global employees have had to work from home full time. How has this situation impacted their working preferences? And how will employers feel now that they’ve experienced having a mainly remote workforce?

Businesses are warming up to greater flexibility

While the global state of affairs has had its challenges for all of us, it’s also offered up an opportunity for employees to prove that remote working at scale is a perfectly feasible working practice for many businesses. And though, at this point, the future state may not be entirely clear, experts agree that we’ll soon start to see more people being given the flexibility to divide their time between the office and other kinds of workspaces3. Especially as businesses begin to look at solutions for reducing the financial impact they’ve experienced and help their employees manage the transition to a new world.

It’s likely that we’ll see a variety of different approaches coming to light: some businesses may opt for a satellite hub model, offering smaller regional offices, while others may explore not having a physical location at all.4 This is also where we expect to see co-working spaces really come into their own.

Co-working as a sector was already experiencing a period of rapid growth before the current crisis. In fact, it was originally estimated that there would be 26,300 worldwide co-working spaces with 2.7 million members by the end of 2020.5 In light of current global dynamics, it could be that these numbers are blasted out of the water as the world starts to find its feet again.

Having experienced an entirely different work-life balance over the last few months, we can expect to see increased demand from employees requesting more agile ways of working and a more solid cloud infrastructure to support it. As they look to move away from stressful commuting in favour of being able to choose where they work and have better control over their personal and professional lives, co-working is likely to be high on the agenda. What better than a midway point where they can still have the office experience - social interaction, access to corporate office equipment and meeting rooms – whilst reducing stress and travel time?

Are co-working spaces worth it?

Traditionally a haven for small businesses and entrepreneurs, the benefits of co-working spaces are now becoming clearer to larger businesses and employees across the board. And it’s not just because of the reduced commute. Co-working facilitates a different kind of interaction, opening up opportunities for networking, collaboration and idea exchange in a way that can’t necessarily be replicated in a conventional office environment.

This is where the co-working movement really excels: in bringing together an office-like framework with a hospitality-style setup. The result creates a strong arena for productivity with a more organic sense of community. And that makes these spaces a huge draw. Especially at the moment, where people have missed their usual levels of social connection and the mental strains of lockdown conditions have impacted ways of working.

It’s easy to see then, why providing co-working spaces for the workforce is an option that will deliver long-term benefits for both employees and employers. If flexibility is the “new normal”, then you want your team to have the same ability to carry out critical tasks in remote settings as they would in the office. Here, they can access high-speed internet, secure printing and scanning services and refreshments - with the added bonus of both collaborative and quiet spaces, giving users an agile range of options for meeting their office needs. The key to unlocking this is to ensure you have a robust cloud infrastructure in place to enable this level of flexibility.

And while we can expect some initial sensitivity around any shared space in the current climate, we know that users will be looking for hubs that prioritise safety alongside experience: easy access to hand sanitiser and anti-bacterial wipes, frequent deep cleaning procedures and features like plexi-glass dividers between desks, for example. When it comes to the in-house technology, somewhere that simplifies device interaction with features like mobile printing and one-touch print and scan, is going to be a more preferable choice. As time goes on, we could even see the widespread implementation of touchless fixtures, like door sensors, automatic sinks and soap dispensers and voice-activated lifts.6

There are both challenges and advantages to be found in whatever the “new normal” brings, but what is clear is that if businesses don’t get on board with a more flexible working culture, they are in serious danger of losing relevance and will fail to attract the best talent. Is your business really ready for the unknown yet to come? Is your setup sufficiently agile to cope? Now’s the time to get a solid cloud infrastructure in place for enabling you to manage your business information irrespective of location, review your workforce strategy and partner with the right co-working space to shore up your flexible approach. We could well be entering an era where work is not seen as a place, but a function that can be completed anywhere if you simply have access to the right technology and environment – and those that don’t move quickly enough to change, are unlikely to survive.

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