The Coronavirus pandemic that has swept through the first six months of 2020 has changed changed a lot of things. Some things for the better, and some things bringing new challenges and hurdles we’ll need to overcome.
Each and every industry is going to have to evolve in some way as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, including a sector which was really coming into its own just before panic struck. So what will happen to the world of co-working, and the rise of shared workspaces now?
As with most businesses, coronavirus has halted co-working spaces around the world in their tracks. But once it’s over, people will still want their hair coiffed at the hairdressers; the pubs and bars will eventually flow again; and somewhere down the line, restaurants will once again be welcoming hungry diners through their doors – but will people still want to co-work?
Perhaps the question isn’t will the world’s workforce still want to co-work? Maybe the question should instead be, will people still be able to co-work? Will co-working spaces and the WeWork generation still be able to operate on their overarching values of community, collaboration, agile working and cross-interaction?
As some parts of the world begin the slow and steady journey from lockdown, we take a look at how we think COVID might shape co-workspaces of the future.
Rethinking the space layout
Official government guidelines say that office workers should now sit side-by-side or back-to-back, rather than face-to-face, in order to prevent the spread of germs. This poses problems for the bench-style desks, collaborative breakout tables, and cluster seating that have become so popular in co-working spaces.
Leases to include clauses to cover emergency shutdown
These are unprecedented circumstances, but circumstances which have taught the owners of co-workspaces a lesson about having a contingency plan at the ready. Perhaps now, leases and contracts will have to include rent waiving clauses in case of lockdown or other urgent responses.
Hygiene will shoot straight to the top of the priority list
This one goes without saying really. No longer will co-workspace residents be able to take a phone call in a tiny privacy pod with little ventilation, without wondering if it was decontaminated by the previous occupant. More stringent demands on hygiene may also signal the end of hot-desking as people prefer to, once again, own their workspaces and therefore be in control of its cleanliness.
More virtual and digital technology facilities
Response to COVID-19 has proved that many people are able to carry out their jobs from home, and that many may wish to continue doing so. This means that there is potential for a significant portion of the country’s population to work remotely in the future. Additional technology to facilitate communication and connectivity with their colleagues is a must.
Automation, voice commands, and sensor activation
Telephones, key pads, light switches, door handles, printers, even the kettle in the kitchen. All of the things handled by multiple people, countless times a day. Perhaps the response to coronavirus will see a rise in voice-activated tech, sensors and automated gadgets?