Can companies implement the coworking model?
In recent years, the coworking movement has broadened; there are more and more spaces, which reach an increasingly wider community and have attracted investments of around $1bn in the last year. This has undoubtedly helped the concept be progressively more "in trend" and the number of medium-sized and large companies interested in the ins and outs of the model is on the rise. As a result, there are also more events and training programmes aimed at promoting collaboration in professional working environments. Since 2011, Unwired has hosted the Worktech conference on the future of work, spaces, technology and innovation. The event has been held in cities all over the world and the next one will take place in Singapore in September. London is also going to be host to the first edition of “The Social Workplace Conference” organised by Global Enterprise, the consulting firm behind Coworking Europe.
Photo source: The Social Workplace Conference website
How can medium-sized and large companies benefit from the virtues of coworking? Can the coworking model be extrapolated to these organisations? Let's look at two situations or models:
1.- Companies that use spaces' infrastructure
The number of companies that allow their employees to work remotely or teams that are spread across the world is on the increase. Buffer is a great example of one of these teams, with 31 people in 22 different countries at present. Joel Gascoigne (CEO) explains the advantages and disadvantages of working with this company model. The norm is that these teams turn to coworking spaces for a base outside of their homes. There are several advantages for this type of model:
- Productivity: Although we shouldn't generalise, we are faced with so many distractions when we work from home. A coworking space offers a professional environment.
- Reduced costs: Companies can reduce their investment in offices by combining working remotely with using work spaces as and when they're needed.
- Interaction: Coworking spaces are diverse and open. The collisions that occur are positive for a project's development.
- Flexibility: Sometimes companies may be put off by their remote team sharing a space due to privacy and confidentiality issues. However, more and more spaces are offering private offices. Spaces like Indiegrove, Mission50 and The Working Capitol all combine private offices for teams and other more flexible models.
- Horizontality: A coworking space mainly hosts independent professionals or small companies. This means that there are no hierarchical relationships, which can exist in some large companies, like Facebook or Twitter.
- Bootstrapping: Many coworking spaces get their own community involved in the space's design and construction (ideas, assembly, etc.). This really helps develop a sense of belonging and identity.
- Diversity: While the main motto in large companies is unambiguous and corresponds to the organisation's macro-vision, we can find several projects, interests and various "mottos" in a coworking space.
The impact of COVID-19 and the social distancing measures that are being implemented until a vaccine or cure is discovered are having an impact on many businesses from two angles. On one hand, many are experiencing a lack of income due to closure and on the other, they are having to adjust their business models to adapt to the new transitional phase that is already happening in many countries.
With big cities becoming increasingly expensive and technology enabling people to work remotely with ease, many people see small and medium cities and towns as the solution to the work/life balance conundrum. It’s likely that, in the next decade, we’ll witness a migration of skilled professionals from big cities to medium-size one. Will Covid-19 accelerate this trend?
Although the benefits are numerous, our collective experience has also given visibility to the problems of telecommuting. Under lockdown, many of us are having to juggle work with childcare and homeschooling. Even under normal circumstances, maintaining any semblance of work-life balance can be a challenge. Of course, when looking at the pros and cons of working from home it’s important to remember that the experience is different for everyone, and it only really works if the employer has a comprehensive remote working policy in place. Is there a middle ground?
A post-COVID-19 society could require workspaces to go the extra mile to ensure that they provide quality ventilation and tighten up their hygiene practices. Here are ideas to improve hygiene and air quality in your coworking and flexible office space.
Coworking spaces have always had to find innovative ways to drive revenue while ensuring the success of their members. Our industry is known for being versatile, dynamic and creative. In other words: with the right approach and support, we will get through this!
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