The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has significantly changed the way we work. Millions have lost their jobs altogether due to the crisis, some have shifted to working remotely, and those who are still going to work are facing new, extremely stringent health and safety regulations in an attempt to curb the rate of infection. While some of these adjustments will only be in place temporarily, COVID-19 has changed certain aspects of the working world permanently.
One of the biggest adjustments that will endure even after COVID has subsided is corporate flexibility. Almost overnight, corporations and employees were forced to adopt a work-from-home arrangement. For many, this transition was not seamless: some are struggling to adapt to their new working reality, encountering various communication, coordination, and collaboration challenges, which pose the threat of decreased productivity.
Meanwhile, supervisors have been forced to adopt various strategies for effectively communicating with their employees who are now working online. That said, they figured it out and many employees are now reaping the benefits of remote work, including increased freedom, no commute, and boosted productivity.
It’s important to note, however, that this isn’t the reality for all workers who have been forced into a work-from-home setup. For instance, many don’t have the privilege of dedicated home offices and therefore are struggling to establish a physical separation between their workspace and their home space.
Additionally, given the sudden onset of remote work arrangements in light of COVID-19, many of them were assembled in an ad hoc manner out of necessity. With little initial insight into how long the pandemic would last and how long these work-from-home setups would be required, most weren’t designed for longevity or tailored to optimize efficiency and performance.
Furthermore, research indicates that many new remote workers are struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation due to the sudden dip in social interaction. A recent survey found that 33% of respondents who have started working remotely since the outbreak reported feeling frequently isolated.
So, whether they’re craving a functional workspace, some socialization, or just a change of scenery, it seems likely that many workers will be champing at the bit to get out of their homes as soon as they can – even if their offices haven’t reopened yet. This is where we may see a resurgence in coworking spaces.
Coworking spaces, such as Novel Coworking Minnesota for example, allow multiple workers from various organizations to work in the same vicinity, either independently or in groups. The industry has already grown significantly in recent years and is expected to steadily expand; with a projected annual growth rate of 21.3%, the total number of coworking spaces worldwide is expected to surpass 40,000 by the year 2024.
Despite an anticipated boom, the industry is currently experiencing a decline as a result of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders. The market is expected to fall from $9.27 billion in 2019 to $8.24 billion in 2020 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -12.9%. However, the market is then forecasted to recover and reach $11.52 billion in 2023 at CAGR of 11.8%. When the industry does boom, coworking spaces may become the new norm in the workforce.
There are several factors that make coworking spaces an attractive post-pandemic work option, many of which can directly counteract the difficulties posed by remote work. Consider the first example of dysfunctional at-home workspaces; coworking spaces present an excellent alternative because they are designed to maximize productivity. Certain coworking space design features, such as natural light, foliage, and vibrant colors, have been found to reduce stress, improve cognition, and unleash creativity among employees.
Coworking spaces also enable interpersonal interaction, which is vital in alleviating any feelings of loneliness and isolation that may have arisen due to working remotely. Research has shown that brief interactions with other people increase our happiness levels and make us feel more connected to the community around us. In addition to sustaining employees’ mental well-being, a strong sense of community will undoubtedly act as a key component in our collective recovery from the pandemic.
Similarly, networking opportunities, which will be of utmost importance in a post-COVID working world, are abundant in coworking environments. Once the pandemic has subsided, millions of people will return to the marketplace looking for work; in other words, the competition will be fierce. In expanding their professional networks, workers will become more privy to new job openings, potential collaborations, and financial opportunities.
Given that people working together in coworking spaces all come from different professional backgrounds and work for different companies, you’ll have the chance to meet and work with people you likely would have never met otherwise. In doing so, you’ll gain insight into new skill sets and open your mind to new ideas you may not have previously considered.
Another perk of coworking spaces are the money savings for business owners. Considering the significant financial repercussions the pandemic has wreaked on companies all over the world, entrepreneurs will likely be looking to slash their business expenses as much as they possibly can once they relaunch their operations.
When you opt to lease a coworking space rather than an office, you only pay for the space you and your team plan to occupy, while the cost of facilities and utilities do not fall on you. You also save on equipment and furniture costs; coworking spaces are already outfitted with desks, chairs, couches, filing cabinets, and plenty of other pieces to make the space as comfortable and functional as possible.
In a post-pandemic world, the need for innovative and flexible working arrangements will be ever prominent. Known for their functional and creative layouts, their socialization and networking opportunities, and their affordability, coworking spaces offer a plethora of benefits for both the company and the employee. In the wake of the pandemic, we’ll need to adopt a new norm in many aspects of life – coworking could very well be one of our best options in the workforce.