How the pandemic showcased the true potential of this emerging industry.
Lockdowns will end, but this doesn’t signal a return to the office for thousands of workers. In fact, the very idea of work has been turned upside down. While many have talked about the future of work and what that looks like, change was slow to happen. We are now witnessing in real-time the end of conventional ways and overwhelming acceptance of a fresh and better approach to work.
Now that people have successfully worked remotely, they won’t want to stop. Even the most skeptical employer has now embraced remote working. Coworking providers are waiting to welcome workers from all industries into safe environments where they can still connect, be productive, and most importantly, work safely.
In fact, Global Workplace Analytics predicts 30 per cent of people will continue remote working for the foreseeable future. So where will businesses and professionals go to work?
The future is now
Coworking spaces have reimagined work and are poised to open their doors to a host of new clients eager to ditch their kitchen tables in lieu of an environment where they can network, innovate, and collaborate.
Last March when COVID-19 began disrupting the business landscape, many business owners weren’t sure about how they would provide their employees with access to workspace since they could no longer go into their traditional offices.
Especially as companies and employees fled from central business districts and major cities, the opportunity for expansion and success in the coworking market continued to grow. As companies shifted their focus away from traditional downtown office space, which is incredibly expensive and inflexible, they set their sights on the suburbs.
“Lockdowns will end, but this doesn’t signal a return to the office for thousands of workers”
This opened up new opportunities for coworking providers with suburban models, especially as the idea of remote work setups grew on both employers and employees. According to a survey of Fortune 500 CEOs, over 25 per cent of leaders were looking at adopting permanent remote work setups for part of their workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This shift in how major corporations instruct their employees to work positions the coworking industry for further demand, especially as the cost continues to play a large role in decision making. The cost-effectiveness of flexible workspaces was already evident to many employers and businesses, but as COVID-19 continues to alter the way work is conducted, we expect demand to rise even further.
“CFOs, already under pressure to tightly manage costs, clearly sense an opportunity to realize the cost benefits of a remote workforce,” stated Alexander Bant, practice vice president of research for Gartner.
Coworking – especially in suburban markets – offers workers many benefits that they have found to be incredibly useful. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits to employees and business owners is convenience.
For many employees, their jobs required long commutes, spending hours in traffic, or crammed together on public transportation. The pandemic made public transit unsafe, and with many people working remotely, there was no longer any need to commute into cities, which made the convenience of walking down the street or taking a quick drive to a suburban coworking location a major benefit for workers.
“Franchising will play a major role in the rebuilding of the economy”
Another benefit that employees have enjoyed about flexible office space has been the amenities provided. For the first couple of weeks of quarantine, millions of workers across the country were stuck working from kitchen tables or couches and put up with distractions and poor internet connection.
Obviously, this was a major pain point for both employees and businesses. Flexible workspaces provide fully furnished offices with desks, strong internet, and access to copiers and printers – all amenities that the average worker doesn’t have access to at home.
Flex is here to stay
It is clear that coworking is going to play a major role in the success of businesses of all kinds. Ben Munn with Jones Lang LaSalle – a major commercial real estate services firm – noted: “Demand for coworking space is very much driven by people who need a location to work that isn’t their home. We absolutely see that flex will be a bigger part of the way companies provide space in the future.”
From a franchising perspective, this opens the door to a new world of demand. Franchising is a counter-cyclical industry, which means that during times of economic downturn, franchise businesses tend to see an increase in interest and prospective franchisees.
Many franchisees are searching for an opportunity to not just become their own bosses, but also to become an integral part of their local community. Franchising a coworking space provides entrepreneurs the perfect opportunity to not only get into business for themselves but to also support other local business owners who may be chasing their own entrepreneurial dreams by providing them with access to workspace from which they can grow.
A key factor to coworking success in 2021 is going to be how businesses establish a human-to-human connection with their members. At Office Evolution, our franchisees – referred to as ‘Ohana’, which is Hawaiian for family – help us forge a strong bond that stretches from our corporate office, all the way to our members.
Franchising will play a major role in the rebuilding of the economy. In order for that rebuilding to take place, people will continue to need a convenient and flexible space where they can get work done, safely.
The increased demand for coworking space will continue to rise in every market across the country, especially as businesses begin to implement full-time remote work models to provide their employees with the benefits of convenience and flexibility. Coworking franchisors are eager to showcase the success that their concepts have had throughout 2020, and are eager to welcome in prospective franchisees seeking ways to get into business for themselves while playing a major role in bolstering their local business community.
Andrea Pirrotti- Dranchak is the chief marketing and development officer for Office Evolution.