The post-COVID-19 flex space industry will be different for sure. Masks and disinfectants are here to stay, but what else has changed? And most importantly, how do you adapt your business model?
The new demand requires more flexibility, decentralization, and a hybrid way of working. To learn how to tap into this demand, we sat down with 4 flex space operators:
Below, you’ll find their thoughts. We hope the information will help you navigate through the post-COVID flex space journey.
Note: This post is a continuation of the panel discussion we recently hosted together with the mentioned above operators. The panel was on the topic of 2020’s challenges, opportunities, and takeaways. If you’d like to get some valuable know-how, check out the recording here: Throwback To 2020 – A Crazy Year To Remember.
— Nevena Bacheva, Ahoy!Berlin: Yes, as most of the companies work from home the coworking industry has to create new concepts on how to support them with many of their daily tasks.
Taking responsibility for deliveries, additional services for their plants, flexible cleaning service conditions on a weekly basis.
— Adam Alton, CodeBase: We’re always looking to adapt to the needs of our community. Services such as hotdesking have been temporarily removed. However, we hope to bring them back as soon as it is safe to do so. We’re in the process of looking at how a virtual service could be introduced to our offerings.
— Karolina Dąbrowska, HubHub: The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that flexibility is the most desirable aspect of office renting for any company nowadays, regardless of its size. This is what HubHub has always been about, coming up with new and innovative ways to satisfy our clients.
In response to the most pressing needs of our residents, we introduced the rotation package, which enables HubHub community members to rent an office for 10 people and still work in a team of 20.
It helped our clients reduce rental costs and redistribute their resources. At the same time, the managed to preserve a stimulating office environment.
Following our predictions and observing market needs we also decided to open Qubes in Hungary and Slovakia. It’s a solution that bridges the gap between a traditional office model and a co-working space. It addresses the need of growing businesses unable to accurately predict their long-term growth pattern.
It combines the benefits of a conventional office in terms of security and personalization with co-work’s flexibility and access to the network of like-minded people.
— Kenny Kane, Firmspace: We’re starting to see an increase in our day-office products. Our day offices are like the regular private offices. At the same time, they can be rented for a shorter period of time – e.g. a day or two.
So we’ve pivoted to offering more of these offices. Most of them are single-desk offices or are designed for small teams. We are also seeing a lot of interest in virtual mail services.
Find more tips on the topic in this guide on reopening and future-proofing your flex space post-Covid.
— Nevena Bacheva, Ahoy!Berlin: No big changes planned; we only had to reduce the capacity of one area. Currently, we use the conference rooms in order to compensate.
Ahoy!Berlin is lucky to be in a huge industrial building and generally provide enough space so that everyone feels comfortable. We currently support our companies by reducing the number of desks in their offices and suggesting them a booking option for their desks, as they plan to “share” them within the next months.
We definitely have the need for significantly more storage space because of this.
— Adam Alton, CodeBase: We’ve already reduced the capacity of our coworking space to improve social distancing and made minor changes to comply with COVID-19 health and safety suggestions.
While we don’t intend to make any other major changes to our spaces we try to keep in mind any alterations we can make to improve how the different spaces are used.
— Karolina Dąbrowska, HubHub: Our spaces change constantly following the requests of our community members. HubHub offices were designed to be adjustable and flexible, so we don’t have to plan any major reconstructions right now.
However, what we do pay extra attention to our health and safety measures.
We adopted our space to meet the requirements of global health organizations – from comfortable social distancing conditions to frequent disinfection and clear rules in the office that reduce the risk of spreading infections.
We also provide face masks and hand sanitizers for everyone, and lead by example following strict rules as a team.
— Kenny Kane, Firmspace: We’re lucky because Firmspace is primarily private offices. This makes it easy for us to provide social distancing so we don’t need to make any major layout changes.
We’re thinking about panels or plexiglass dividers. We’ve also put nano septic stickers on doors and they seem to be working well. For us, it’s important to make people feel safe but without making them feel like in a hospital.
— Nevena Bacheva, Ahoy!Berlin: We encourage our community to implement the desk and room booking option provided by you. Many of them are currently considering it. Otherwise, we did not need to implement any additional tools or any new software in the past months.
However, we realized how important it is to have a good structure and overview completely digitally so that everyone has the possibility to work apart while managing a community of hundreds of people.
— Adam Alton, CodeBase: Virtual meetings have become the norm and while in-person meetings will increase in a post-COVID-19 world I still expect many people will make use of virtual meetings or hybrid meetings using both in-person and online.
Thus, our focus will be on ensuring that internet and meeting room facilities are suitable for such meetings.
Handling visitors and hotdesking customers will likely move to an entirely electronic approach rather than pen and paper-like we used to – this is a key area where I see us utilizing what OfficeRnD has to offer.
— Karolina Dąbrowska, HubHub: The biggest value that HubHub has to offer, besides our space, is our inspiring community. Our members got used to benefiting from the in-person presence in our spaces, especially when it comes to networking and exchanging knowledge.
We want to keep on empowering these kinds of interactions by working on the best digital solutions that bring people together. We don’t only provide space solutions, we’re enabling beneficial cooperation and delivering industry insights that fuel the development of our members’ businesses.
— Kenny Kane, Firmspace: We’re always looking to improve our COVID-19 screening. We have a QR code questionnaire with a few questions about members’ and visitors’ health. We’re also considering temperature scanners.
The OfficeRnD conference room booking calendar helps us a lot with having visibility on the use of meeting rooms. We can easily provide our cleaning staff with a list of all meetings for the day so they can disinfect after each meeting.
— Nevena Bacheva, Ahoy!Berlin: One needs an extremely clear overview of the costs and earnings. The flexible contracts make this task pretty challenging, as everything could change on a monthly, sometimes even weekly basis. Always consider the possible risks in the planning.
— Adam Alton, CodeBase: We’re taking each month as it comes and regularly updating forecasts (something I’d recommend any company that is heavily impacted by the pandemic does).
New government guidance brings with it new difficulties and impacts our community members in different ways so we’ve learned not to make sweeping assumptions and focus on the things we know and the things we can control.
— Karolina Dąbrowska, HubHub: It won’t come as a surprise that it’s almost impossible to plan anything at the moment. As the old saying goes: change is the only constant, that’s why good organizational skills are so crucial.
The only thing that remains fixed in any of our calculations is the cleaning service. We’ve got a great team working on different case scenarios and considering various what ifs, but we’re trying to stay optimistic!
We’re longing for yoga sessions, community breakfasts and afternoon drinks together. But if that won’t happen in the foreseeable future, we’ll allocate our resources to digital equipment to deliver the best community experience online.
Everything for our current and future members, really.
— Kenny Kane, Firmspace: We’ve been focusing on member retention. We haven’t cut any services because we want to keep members feel good at the space. We use the time with reduced occupancy to improve the space so when people come back it looks and feels even better.
Budget is important but it’s not important than keeping members happy. The takeaway is that we’re budgeting for members’ health, safety, and happiness as an investment in the future of our company. And it’s working.
— Nevena Bacheva, Ahoy!Berlin: Many conservative institutions and big established companies, which never had any experiences with coworking spaces and flexible providers, decided to go flex. This will bring even more interaction on different levels than ever before but it will also be a learning process.
Improving security, as many of those clients have particular expectations and certain restrictions. Many service-providing industries will have to provide more flexible contracts. Also, adjustments and flexible termination policy will be key.
— Adam Alton, CodeBase: Assuming we are able to return to some kind of normality, I would expect to see a mixture of companies rapidly returning to the office and enjoying being able to work together in person and companies taking a more cautious and gradual response to a return potentially having a hybrid office/home working model.
It’s been encouraging to see how many companies have managed to adopt home working so quickly under difficult conditions. I expect there will be an openness to try out different types of flexible working that can benefit so many individuals.
The key will be for the industry to be sympathetic to the spectrum of feelings towards a return to offices and coworking spaces and how quickly that should happen.
— Karolina Dąbrowska, HubHub: I have definitely observed the rising need for the old-normal. People are becoming less effective working from home but they want to enjoy the flexibility that this new online reality brought to their lives.
That’s why we can expect a rising demand for the hybrid model of office rental in general. A new emerging trend that we can already observe is also working near home (as opposed to working from home).
Co-works are already entering smaller towns trying to address the need of people who want to improve work-life balance and reduce hours spent on commuting. And apart from that? In times of uncertainty, flexibility gains an enormous value.
— Kenny Kane, Firmspace: The post-COVID-19 flex space industry will require an increased focus on safety.
Also, the concept of ‘3-2-2’ will play a key role. ‘3-2-2’ stands for working at the office 3 days a week, working from home 2 days a week, and having 2 days off.
As a company, we are focusing on understanding the new needs of the customer. It’s not one-size-fits-all. You need to have the pricing that works for your prospects, so in my opinion, 2021 is a lot about customized pricing.
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