Five ways the pandemic may accelerate the demand for coworking spaces
Founder & creative director of Ministry of New – the coworking space at Fort, Mumbai – Marlies Bloemendaal shares why coworking is the logical alternative to traditional offices, in the post-pandemic world
With lockdown restrictions beginning to slowly be lifted, many businesses are looking towards a gradual return to office spaces, for them and their employees. Ministry of New, the coworking space at Fort, Mumbai that was launched in 2016, is also looking to reopen next month, to accommodate existing members, as well as new ones who have expressed an interest in switching from traditional office space to coworking.
Early trends across the globe indicate that there must be an alternative to a mass return to offices, and companies are currently contemplating back-to-office strategies that will look significantly different from where businesses stood pre-pandemic. Employers are being called upon to develop hybrid workplace strategies and more flexible working arrangements, much of which can be achieved by turning to the coworking model.
Many companies, even pre-pandemic, have had to deal with the burden of long-term, lock-in leases with heavy security deposits, which take away the ‘business cash flow’ ability to respond to changes in the economy quickly. Now, more than ever, having the flexibility to downsize one’s team – and therefore, one’s work space, is crucial. With the government urging companies to institute staggered work hours, adequate gaps between shifts, and social distancing within offices, it’s becoming more important than before for employers to have the option of smaller, or more flexible work spaces, as the need arises. Coworking at Ministry of New allows companies to choose from options like a Private Office for a day to Shared Team Memberships, thus ensuring the ultimate flexibility for any business. Many organisations, while encouraging the bulk of their employees to continue working from home, would benefit from in-person interactions with key team members, at least from time to time. The Ministry of New’s flexible office plans and options will allow companies and employers to optimise costs and focus on running their businesses, while adhering to new norms.
Customised adaptation to space constraints
With recent government guidelines directing companies to maintain six feet of physical distance between team members in the workplace, employers are faced with another problem – that of being able to accommodate their teams in the same amount of space they had, pre-pandemic. The modern office space has certainly evolved over the ages, and as companies look to resume business, redesigning and restructuring of existing real estate will pose yet another challenge. Coworking spaces seem able to respond to design changes required post-COVID-19 quicker and more efficiently than traditional office spaces can. The issue of space is something that the Ministry of New has already solved for, given the 8,000 sq-ft of existing real estate that was offered to our members from the start. I can confidently say that our workspace is adapted to guarantee social distancing. Our expansive work stations have always allowed those occupying them to maintain a distance from their neighbours and we will also be adding in additional distancing ‘barriers’ through design elements like plants and furniture, when we reopen in July.
What’s more, Ministry of New offers a range of office spaces that employers can pick and choose from, based on the requirement for their specific teams. These include private offices for a day, private offices on a month-to-month basis, and shared team memberships, will allow employers to bring in smaller groups of team members on given days, in private or semi-private spaces that they can consider their own, while still offering them the facilities that they would need in a typical work day.
Re-building communities with trust
Employers may not have accounted for the unanticipated mental health consequences that their teams may be struggling with by working from home. Isolation and burnout are two very valid causes for concern, especially for employees who are used to the pace and offerings of day-to-day office life. At Ministry of New, we have always prided ourselves on the strong sense of community that our members develop with one another, almost instantly. It’s a proven fact that coworking helps fight loneliness, burnout and depression, because of the connections people are able to make with others they see on an almost-daily basis.
Leaving it to the experts
For the past few months, business owners have had to deal with everything from shuttering their offices for an indeterminate period of time, to learning how to help their employees optimise their productivity, while working from home. As they now look to a return to the office space, business owners should be allowed to focus on their bottom line and driving productivity to an all-time high, not on the hassles of running an office. The Ministry of New’s hospitality-driven approach to coworking aims to take care of the practical, day-to-day aspects of the office environment, leaving business owners free to get back to work.
Ever-ready for the future
If COVID-19 taught us one thing, it was that being able to pivot, and rapidly adapt to the almost daily challenges that the pandemic has brought with it, have been key. Even while lockdown restrictions are slowly beginning to ease up, companies would understandably remain hesitant to enter into long-term leases again, given that the country is still seeing big spikes in cases, and a tally that shows no immediate signs of slowing down. It’s important for employers to incorporate future planning into all aspects of their businesses, and know exactly what capital expenses they have to now incur, moving forward. While we hope that we are at the turning point, and restrictions will only continue to ease, it is ultimately out of our hands – and businesses therefore have to be prepared to adapt and account for more changes to their team structure, as needed.
What we’re offering at Ministry of New is a flexible workspace that doesn’t require business owners to worry about capital expenses or any hidden costs that they would otherwise have to invest in setting up a permanent office. With setup and operational costs for a traditional office space typically 1.5 times higher than a coworking space, not even taking into account the mental costs incurred, the benefits of coworking therefore, are now looking even more attractive.