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The COVID 19 or coronavirus pandemic has literally obliterated all offline businesses. Any business that involves people interacting face to face has had a literal shutdown and we will be lucky if the crisis can be solved in the next 3-6 months.
The virus has impacted travel, tourism, food, cinema, sports, and countless associated industries to a point of complete chaos. One of the industries that have gotten severely impacted due to the COVID-19 situation is coworking spaces. As numerous people come together to share a common workspace, this industry was the first to be impacted and even when the situation improves, it will be highly unlikely that coworking spaces will return to the hustle and bustle of past few years.
Over the past few years, coworking spaces have mushroomed in and around Asia, especially India where there are numerous small and large coworking spaces in metro cities. Since the lockdown of the country, all of these coworking spaces have literally zero occupancy and many small coworking spaces that relied on small businesses to survive, the coming months would be crucial.
Will Businesses Ditch Coworking Completely?
Possibly not. Coworking does provide significant cost savings for businesses and we do not think the trend will completely die down. What can happen is a lot of small and medium businesses might end their coworking leases and extend work from home for employees to at least cut down on some of the costs incurred during this lock-down period.
There is also an upside where large businesses in an attempt to save operational costs can also move from a traditional office space and move to a coworking space. Both these scenarios will depend on how fast the world gets back to normalcy from coronavirus pandemic.
One of our smaller coworking partners in Bangalore was having a difficult time filling up seats prior to the corona scare due to larger coworking companies undercutting them. Even though their space and amenities were on par with global standards, the competition was charging too little for premium locations and their space remained largely empty for over 3 months. For such small coworking spaces, having a coworking space lie empty without any member could mean death.
Identity for Coworking Spaces
Ever since the WeWork debacle, coworking spaces have been fighting for a unique identity and value proposition and one of the key aspects of all coworking space was the reliance of an active and thriving community. A community of like-minded professionals are very useful to grow your business and even help coworking space become more active and fun. But, these are not normal circumstances. When social distancing is the new normal, how can coworking spaces that emphasise on community cope with this situation?
Before coronavirus impacted coworking spaces across the globe, almost all coworking spaces were hosting community/engagement events to help members have a sense of belonging. Now, these communities or events are moving online and coworking spaces are trying hard to make these virtual events as interesting and fun-filling as possible.
Some of virtual events hosted by coworking spaces include:
- Learning Sessions
- Baking Classes
- Virtual Workout Sessions
We think that coworking spaces from around the world will have to survive this storm and there is a potential to come out stronger. If you are a coworking space owner, here are some tips to recover your business once the situation in your country improves.
Tips for Improving Your Coworking Business
Focus on Retention
Just like your business, even your client’s business has been badly impacted and if possible you should go out of your way to ensure they get benefit out of basing their business out of your coworking space. Keeping an older client will be much easier than hunting for a new client, going through onboarding and only having the client vacate in 3 months.
Provide Business Continuity Support
Now a lot of businesses have gone completely virtual and will require business continuity support. This could mean allowing members to use more virtual meeting credits or even extending remote IT support. This support during crucial time can strengthen your relationship with the client and even have a long
Virtual Events that Add Value
As we mentioned, a lot of coworking spaces are now hosting virtual events in an attempt to keep the community engaged. By what we have seen, a lot of these events add little or no value to community members and have a large number of virtual attendees often leads to confusion and lack of time utilization. What we suggest is based on the data of your members, organize very few niche events that actually add value to your members and there is some take away from spending time and effort.
This one is for when your coworking space is back to functioning normally. If you can, provide your clients with extra amenities such as printing credits, meeting room credits, etc. so that your clients will think twice before moving to a cheaper coworking space. It is the niceties that we all like and a healthy relationship during a crisis will definitely help long term business.
We sincerely hope businesses world over is able to comeback to