A few weeks ago we talked about what the coworking spaces of the future will be like, focusing on aspects such as health, the need for companies to convince their employees to return to the office and optimising pay-per-use systems. In this post, however, I want to talk about different aspects that, I believe, impact the sector in a deeper way.
Before the pandemic, in a conversation with a broker, a topic came up that I had detected in some clients before but perhaps did not give enough importance to. I think that sometimes we do not place enough importance on the things that happen to us on a day-to-day basis. However, I think it is important to reflect and share what happens to us with other professionals in our sector, in order to have a broader and clearer picture of what is happening in our industry.
As I said, I was talking to this person and the conversation led me to ask him if he thought that some operators, in trying to optimise space, had gone so far that for a certain type of corporate client, the product no longer made sense because it did not respond to their needs. The answer was obviously yes, and the answer to this conflict has been found by operators in the development of Space-as-a-Service in any of its variants.
An office service within a coworking space has a clear purpose and very broad appeal. It offers a private office, usually with highly optimised dimensions, shared common areas and a number of services allowing members to concentrate on their work. A client of this service is looking for a compact private space in which to work without complications or prior investment in a very flexible scheme and who does not mind sharing common areas with the rest of the users of other companies.
However, there are clients for whom this does not work. For multinationals that follow a strict regulation of square metres per employee, the model is not practical as they have a high density of employees. The same is the case for those at the opposite extreme as well. In these cases, what started to happen was that clients who were interested in the service but had different needs in terms of layout started to ask operators for the space (and the price) per square metre instead, and then ask about changing the layout to better suit their needs.
With the advent of the pandemic, the increase in demand from corporate clients has multiplied and the vast majority of large operators tell you privately that they are carrying out a multitude of projects with corporate clients both on and off-site. For operators who are either part of a real estate company or work in large corporate buildings with availability, these contracts are even more interesting given the optimisation possibilities they provide and in the first case, the possibility to improve their assets. Obviously, this service demands higher costs for the client and generally longer contracts, especially since they are associated with customisation of the space.
Over the past five years this practice has evolved and become increasingly commonplace and fancy terms and acronyms have been coined to define it.
These services exist and are a part of the market that will become increasingly important as this is adopted by more and more companies. It also offers opportunities for operators working in different price ranges as not all customers in the future will be interested in the type of finishes and services offered by operators currently providing this service.
The future of coworking spaces lies in the creation of tailor-made spaces, sometimes for a single client in isolation, and sometimes for the creation of private tailor-made spaces in the same building. Of course, the future remains to be seen, but what seems clear is that agility in the creation of these services will be key and will represent a major challenge for those operators who do not know how to adapt.
The current trends of remote working is something on which neither side, employees and companies, has said the last word and as I have said before, it will depend a lot on the working culture of each country, industry and above all on the shortage of talent in it.
In this environment, as we have also discussed, flexible workspaces become strategic allies for companies. From offering different locations that can change over time according to the needs of the workers in a much more agile way than if they were their own offices, to being a resource for remote workers who do not want to continue working from home but who are looking for a work-life balance with a commute of 45 minutes each way or more cannot offer. In this sense, many companies where remote working was the norm were paying for it on the understanding that it was something they needed to provide their employees with an adequate workspace.
However, many companies have not yet given in and are reluctant to facilitate this transition, which is why they are not yet paying for coworking for their employees. If this finally happens in your country / sector it will be done progressively. Large companies buy packs of hours or days from platforms that integrate a multitude of spaces, or other companies which understand that it is a perk that they can offer both to workers that now if the company is open to hire them to work remotely or provide a space in conditions for the days that the employee does not go to the corporate office.
Flexible work is becoming broader and broader in scope and is adapting better and faster for a future that is moving faster and faster. Perhaps in five years we can review this mini-series of two articles and see how well we have been able to predict the future.
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