Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans stopped commuting to work daily and had to start working at home. Before the pandemic, only 4% of Americans worked from home, but by April 2020, 34% of Americans confirmed they were remote employees. Most of these remote employees are embracing coworking spaces as a way to ensure productive work environments.
Coworking spaces provide a solution to employers where dozens of employees share amenities and space under one roof. They offer a flexible working space whereby employees can use them as a satellite office, allowing them to avoid long commutes to work while maintaining COVID-19 safety measures. In this article, we will look at the future of coworking spaces in light of the current pandemic and effectively adapt existing coworking spaces to facilitate the ‘new normal.’
Effects of coworking spaces
Many people have been using communal workspaces for a while now. Ever since the carnage of the global financial crisis of 2008, many entrepreneurs adopted this mode of working as a flexible and convenient working option. Between 2015 and 2019, coworking spaces grew in popularity as major corporates started embracing it as well. However, 2020 saw explosive growth in the utilization of coworking spaces due to COVID-19.
To slow down infection rates and curb the curb, many employers opted to adopt these spaces as a measure to contain it. However, since they had not taken measures to ensure COVID-19 safety measures, the use of coworking spaces saw a 50% decline during the first half of 2020.
However, there is still hope for coworking space developers and operators as many health experts state that remote working is here to stay for a long time. Due to a change of attitudes in the business world, coworking spaces are increasingly becoming a top option for businesses in the future. In a report by Research and Markets, the coworking space will recover and grow by 11.8%, increasing its worth to $11.52 billion by 2023. So, how can coworking spaces provide a solution to the inconvenience caused by the pandemic? Let us look at a few predictions.
Health and Safety will be a primary concern.
In light of the current pandemic we are experiencing and the lifting of lockdown measures in several states, businesses are beginning to reopen and operate globally. More employees are going back to their workplaces, meaning health and Safety have to be a huge priority in the future.
Even though various Governments have lifted certain restrictions on the COVID-19 virus, it is up to individual organizations to guarantee the health and protection of their employees to ascertain a healthy and productive work environment. Thus, there are several ways that workplaces can reopen safely in a manner to cater to the safety measures to prevent transmission and the anticipated post-COVID-19 aftershock.
1. Create ways to ensure observation of physical distance
In the past, many corporate offices preferred using open-plan office layouts to maximize space. However, due to the increased demand to safeguard the health and safety of employees, it is vital to restructure such offices to provide physical distancing, which aids in providing a virus-free working environment.
Cushman and Wakefield, a reputable commercial real estate giant, came up with the concept of a 6-feet office.’ The concept involves six primary elements that ensure social distancing without compromising the efficiency of the workplace. This concept involves:
-Conducting a brief but thorough 6-feet quick scan of their working environment
-Following the 6-feet rules that pertain to the rules of conduct put in a set of clear and workable agreements
-Following the 6-feet routing visual plans in every office
-Working on the 6-feet workstation in a 6-feet facility
-Having the 6-feet certificate that proves the workplace is a virus-free environment due to its implemented measures.
2. Make enclosure a priority
Another way to ensure the health and safety of the work environment is by investing in office enclosures. This may require coworking spaces to divide previously large offices into enclosed workspaces that sit fewer people in adherence to the regulations around physical distancing.
Coworking spaces can also use this idea to create different revenue streams. Acoustic partition products can be used to create soundproof rooms for digital media recordings. Think podcasting and video recording/editing – where rooms can be rented on an hourly basis.
3. Promote improved cleaning protocols
Coworking spaces will have to embrace pandemic hygiene protocols to ensure workers’ wellbeing, Safety, and comfort in a specific area. New cleaning protocols, like nano-tech coatings, ionization, and UV light, are effective cleaning methods that help ascertain cleanliness at the workplace.
It is also crucial to provide easy access to sanitization points, make the wearing of masks while in the office space mandatory, and regularly wipe down surfaces with disinfected water to ensure top-notch cleaning standards. Additionally, scheduling regular HVAC maintenance for the air filtration system ensures the air and communal area are virus-free.
4. Reduce common touchpoints in the coworking space
Another way to ensure a virus-free work environment is by using technology to eliminate common touchpoints. Thanks to technological advancements, it is now possible to reduce surface contact. For instance, an organization can invest in automatic lighting switches, automated door opening sensors and even automatic faucets in the bathrooms and kitchens.
5. Make a worst-case scenario plan
If one of the employees contracts the coronavirus, it is vital to have a worst-case scenario plan to ensure the safety of other employees. Put in place contact tracing facilities, such as cameras or a recording book with information on the people in the building. Also, you can put in place measures to disinfect the entire workspace and a gradual return-to-work plan.
Before the pandemic, coworking spaces provided a sense of community and interaction, which positively influenced productivity. However, since 2020, coworking has taken a new form that requires strict compliance to ensure the health and safety of workers.
Since remote working does not seem to be going anywhere, organizations can use the tips mentioned above as a starting step to providing a virus-free environment for their employees. However, we remain optimistic that things will look up, and we will go back to an even more vibrant and collaborative way of connecting with others in the future.