It’s safe to say a global pandemic wasn’t accounted for in anyone’s predictions for 2020. Right now, as the year unwinds to an end, we do have some predictions in place on that front: the first stirrings of a vaccine, countries in several different stages of recovery, expectations are of a slow, still faraway recovery, but which may finally be coming into view.
But, for the coworking industry, where has 2020 left us? And can we see yet where it may be headed for in 2021? After all, the outbreak, amidst other things, slowed down considerably the expected growth of new coworking spaces.
Still, this industry still has a lot of space to grow into, and a lot of change to prepare for. Here are some trends we’re expecting to see in 2021.
1. Office Space Dynamics Changing
Though there’s a lot to be said —for good reason— on flexibility, online work, and working from home, the need for office space isn’t going anywhere. Its biggest draw being, of course, that an office is a collaborative space. It’s needed to develop employee’s skills, for working and meeting and learning with each other.
In fact, studies suggest that only a very small number of people, around 8%, would like to work from home five days a week. At the same time, 50% of people would like more collaboration space in their offices, in a world post-COVID. In fact, there is nothing like months of forced isolation to highlight the need for office spaces for employees to socialize and develop their skills by exchanging experiences and ensuring that the office is a common space with several professionals from different areas, interacting.
2. Bigger Focus on Community
In the same vein, coworking spaces will do well to focus on community building. Rather than simply providing a flexible workspace as a service, coworking offers a chance to be part of a larger community. Its biggest draw is simply other people; and an environment that believes in collaboration over competition, and the creative power of human connection. In this case, quality is more important than quantity.
3. Growing Niches & Diversity
Coworking spaces have focused on a certain audience, centered around freelancers, start-ups and single entrepreneurs, but in the interest of community building that client base will just continue to diversify. By focusing on specific niches —certain industries, fields or profiles— there’s a chance to create communities for demographics who would be otherwise spread out.
Some examples that are beginning to crop up including coworking for parents, female-only spaces, rural coworking, etc.
4. New Hybrid Space Models
Not a new trend, but one that is definitely growing, is the hybrid coworking model. These are “drop-in” spaces that are made available in hotels, stores and restaurants. They can be used in the “off hours” of establishments, when they’re not in use for their original purpose, or be combined with other services, such as a gym or arts studio.
These hybrid spaces have lower costs for members, but can include perks such as unlimited coffees or discounts for the spaces’ sibling business.
5. More Focus on Health & Comfort at Work
We’ve mentioned before isolation has left people starved for human connection, which will be a big draw for coworking spaces. Well, the pandemic has also had strong health impacts. Employee’s mental and physical well-being will be a priority more than ever.
Actions to support employees’ health, such as active and flexible office projects for employees to choose their hours and work closer to home. These occupational health and mental health support will be employers’ first priority. There’s already a heightened focus on health as a return to work is accompanied by several safety measures. This will likely go on for a long time, following the slow recovery from the collective COVID trauma.
6. Green and Eco-Friendly
Eco-friendliness is a growing trend across workplaces in general. And it ties back to a focus on health and comfort, as connecting to nature is essential to promote well-being and reduce stress.
Initiatives such as minimizing the usage of plastic, investing in solar energy and reused water, green spaces, better air flow, etc. are all here to stay.
7. Open and Smart Design Trends
In the footsteps of social distancing, we’ll be seeing changes to office design, with more open, less densely packed space. This will also include those wellness and eco-friendly measures just mentioned, such as a continuous effort to bring nature into the workspace, and improve comfort and health in the quality of air, sunlight, even office set up and furniture.
In short, if there’s one trend we’ll definitely be seeing in 2021, it’s definitely taking care of employees and members. Building communities, focusing on health and nature and practical solutions. After all, we have never needed each other more than now.
8. Intelligent Technology and Security
In 2021, technology will be on the rise in Coworking spaces. There will be more intelligent equipment, with new wireless devices, advanced software and innumerable integrations for a better management of spaces. There will be interactivity between calendars, panels, technologies and gadgets which are controlled by a single interface. Scanning, sensors, application building and easy recognition will be common. All this to simplify, streamline and facilitate residents.
When the customer arrives at the space, he will no longer have direct contact with the community manager. The services will already be available on the member's smartphone.
Technology is integrating with other areas such as health security and well-being. Intelligent operators will update the air systems, monitoring the temperature and quality and thermal protection. Focus on natural lighting.
In conclusion, the trend in 2021 is definitely to take care of employees and members. Companies are reassessing their office space needs and trying to reinvent themselves.
Working from home can be scary, lonely, uncomfortable and not very creative, so some employees are already looking for alternatives.
As part of Iconic Workspace’s Community, we offer flexible spaces to carry out your work in comfort and safety while building meaningful connections with other people.