Real Estate –
The appeal of the coworking office – Part 2
For part 2 in our 2-part series on the coworking office space, we hear the views of independent office space provider, Venaspace, and commercial property provider, Bruntwood Works, on the future of coworking.
The pandemic affected the work-life balance of millions of people owing to the Government’s lockdown, requiring us to work from home for many months. Whilst tricky for some, others realised that they were capable of doing their jobs remotely, with no need to commute to and from a central office every day, raising the question of the role of the office going forward. Will it be business as usual, or will our work lives be entirely different?
Will the coworking office environment be key to the future of office spaces?
Alex Bonnet, CEO, Venaspace:
"Our coworking space has seen a boom during lockdown, whilst this service has existed for many years the appeal of coworking space has only increased thanks to the working from home movement. Whilst working from home works for many, an equally large number want a professional environment to come to, even if it isn’t 5 days a week. I would say that lockdown has acted as a catalyst for the industry, at least from a regional perspective.
"We are also seeing more enquiries from start-ups looking for affordable office spaces that meet their flexible needs. One of the services we offer is a monthly rolling contract which works perfectly, as long leases aren’t attractive to companies who don’t want to be held in 5–10-year commitments.
"With employees working from home, some companies have also started to downsize, moving from a 30–40-person office to 15 max capacity.
"Bringing back the focus on start-ups, we have also seen a 300% increase in start-ups using our virtual offices. This is where people have a registered address at an office, but they do not actually use the office on a day-to-day basis.
"Where we see coworking spaces thriving are in towns such as Exeter and Bournemouth, but not so much in larger cities like London. For example, more people are moving to regional areas to escape the city and are either working from home or using coworking spaces.
"I mentioned in the previous article about the underutilisation of conference suites, but I’m sure they will bounce back eventually. They were an important part of business and those who used to attend conferences regularly are likely to want to get back to them.
"Coworking has come out of the pandemic in a far stronger position than it was in before it, however, it is important to bear in mind that everyone is different. Businesses should consider the needs of their employees when making decisions."
Ciara Keeling, CEO, Bruntwood Works:
"There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to the workspace of the future but, across the board, our customers are looking for flexible solutions, conducive to hybrid working. For many, coworking has always been a key part of that equation.
"What we’re really seeing is a flight to quality, with greater emphasis and investment injected into breakout and event spaces, for example. The focus now lies in pushing for more and challenging the conventional norms of what it means to be based in a coworking space.
"The appeal of coworking has also been influenced by the fact that creating and managing the perfect workspace takes time and experience and, more than ever, businesses wish to focus on their day-to-day and allow someone else to tailor the solution for them. They also recognise that their teams need opportunities for face-to-face interactions, access to state-of-the-art amenities, and spaces that support their wellbeing as they make their return into a shared environment.
"Working alongside all of these factors is that the world now calls for spaces which enable work and lifestyle elements to coexist in greater harmony, with a huge demand from businesses for ‘third space’ features. Our Pioneer programme launched in 2019 – a £50m investment to create forward-thinking workspaces that incorporate retail and amenities – has seen us incorporate leafy roof terraces, sleep pods, coffee shops, high-spec gyms, theatre-style event spaces and restaurants. At Blackfriars House in Manchester, we have even created a cosy library and podcast room, complete with armchairs and a fireplace. Innovative features like this are available to all businesses that choose a coworking model and can help to power-up creativity, enhance productivity and generate ideas.
"The pandemic has accelerated the need to bring people together, and coworking spaces are a critical piece of this puzzle."
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