The Future of Flexible Office Space: Our 2021 Coworking Trends Analysis
Written by Josh Mente, Founder and Community Director at Co-Balt Workspace
I think it’s safe to say that January 2021 feels a whole lot different than January 2020 did. The COVID-19 pandemic hit businesses across the country like a sucker-punch.
And the coworking industry is no exception.
So, how have the changes and challenges of the past year impacted what’s to come for the coworking industry in the year to come?
Well, pretty drastically, in my opinion.
Here’s are the coworking trends I expect to see as 2021 gets underway.
Enterprise Companies Moving Towards Coworking
With businesses across the country having been mandated to send employees home to work, an interesting byproduct has popped up: organizations are realizing that it’s working well.
As a result, large-scale organizations across the globe seeing the productivity benefits as well as the cost-saving opportunities of moving to full-time remote work and getting rid of their massive office spaces and long, expensive leases.
And as companies move towards decentralization, they’ll be thinking about how to move to a smaller footprint with a hub-and-spoke model.
The big question on their minds will be how to place their remote workforce which is growing tired of working remotely.
And with its all-in pricing, short-term leases, flexibility, and a built-in plug-and-play office environment, coworking is a viable option to serve their needs.
Redefined Space Requirements
Another byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic comes in the form of social distancing. And this has a trickle-down effect for office space.
In past, the traditional standard for office space was to allocate between 125 and 225 square feet of usable space per person.
But with CDC guidelines requiring people to keep a social distance of six feet from one another, these traditional requirements will be significantly less than what is needed, now and for the foreseeable future.
Look for coworking space operators (and traditional office managers) to rethink what wide-open space means and to convert more of it into post-pandemic functional space.
Increased Demand for Private Office Space
On account of both the increased number of large companies decentralizing as well as concerns with keeping close quarters with other people, you can expect that demand for private office space over flexible workspace will also increase in 2021.
In fact, we’re already seeing this happening at Co-Balt and have adjusted accordingly by building eight new private offices.
The Need for Additional Revenue Sources
Coworking operators will need to start exploring alternative revenue sources as some have decreased over the past 12 months. This will include figuring out new long-lasting options for our community members.
Enhanced Safety Measures
I don’t anticipate the safety measures we currently have in place will be going away anytime soon. In fact, I think we can still expect to see a further increasing focus on health, safety, and capacity of buildings.
New Member Benefits
Coworking space operators are going to need to make their spaces even more enticing for members by providing additional benefits and offers to serve their community members’ needs even better.
Reevaluated Lease Rates
When it comes to pricing, coworking spaces will need to decide whether they want to stay the same or reduce their rates in order to attract net-new members. They will also likely need to be flexible in dropping their rates, sometimes on demand, in order to retain existing members that have encountered financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.
This need for flexibility won’t just apply to pricing. Coworking space operators will also need to become more flexible with lease terms for their tenants as well.
Tech Advancements in Coworking
Look for an increase in apps for things like keyless entries into buildings, online booking platforms for conference and event spaces, and online platforms to manage automated payments, as well as more connectivity of spaces through apps like Proximity.
I think we’ll also see an increase in the use of AI to automate tasks, and I believe we’ll also see coworking operators using technology like HVAC systems and motion lighting to move towards a greener workspace.
Adapting to Change and Leading by Example
I’ve already talked a bit about reducing lease rates and being more flexible, but I think that’s all part of a bigger conversation around adapting to change. The most successful coworking spaces are going to be the ones that adapt to change and lead the industry by example.
For example, being at the forefront of changing the leasing environment, building out spaces to assist enterprise-level companies, and doing shorter-term leases with all-in structures and no build-out costs.
This goes way against the five to ten-year lease model that has been present forever.
Coworking spaces will also need to focus on being in tune with entrepreneurs’ needs and changing and adapting with them.
I also think that there will be a great opportunity for coworking space operators to allow students to come in and cowork as a means to find alternatives to libraries and coffee shops.
Focusing on the Needs of the Forced Remote Worker
It’s important to remember that not all remote workers are doing it because they want to. Some have been forced into it and don’t want to be doing it.
So, how can coworking space operators make the experience more enjoyable for them?
For us, this includes things like creating a membership that either spouse can use. Forced remote workers might have kids at home and either spouse needs to get out of the house or alternate days. We call it a Family Membership.
From a membership perspective, we offer month-to-month leases and allow members to split who pays for their membership, such as half to the member and half to a company. We also offer both corporate and personal memberships, flexibility on terms, and one-day passes.
Last year was a catalyst for some pretty significant shifts in the coworking industry and looking ahead at 2021, I see those changes being the prominent driving forces in dictating the trends in our business.
Want to Take Your Workdays to the Next Level in 2021?
If you’d like to learn more about how coworking spaces can benefit your business in 2021, or if you’d like to book a tour of Co-Balt Workspace, get in touch with us today.