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Why flexible workspace will emerge stronger from COVID-19

Stone Soup is taking part in the discussions about the future of coworking and has frequent conversations with coworking operators and community managers from around the world. It is a collective effort to tackle the best way we can the current crisis and emerge stronger. The fight we are up against needs a united front. 

The change will obviously happen

While things are slowly getting back to (the new) normal, one thing is for sure: Coworking as we know it will have to change to survive. Coworking spaces are known for their communal areas and shared amenities. However, keeping a coworking space safe in a post-coronavirus world will probably lead to more dividers for personal space and private offices. 

Despite this tangible setback, industry professionals believe that in the long run, the coronavirus outbreak will not hamper appetites for “real-estate-as-a-service” models. In contrast, the belief is that the recovery from the crisis could serve to drive up demand for flexible office space.

Local or Global: Who has better chances to survive?

Each country has what we call a Local Champion: a homegrown player which competes with the international incumbents in each country. The local players are in a better position to handle local inquiries and manage their financial stability according to CEO of FlySpaces, Mario Berta.

Can we foresee the future using industry data?

The future of coworking

The answer is no, unfortunately.  Most economic forecasts, for the most part, are just guessing.

The problem is, there is very little data to go on. That’s because we are experiencing a black swan event. The term was popularised by author Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his 2007 book, The Black Swan: “The Impact of the Highly Improbable”. It talks about very low probability events that have an extremely high impact if they occur, like the CoronaVirus. So basically we’re in uncharted waters. There is no historical data to make forecasts, as we haven’t experienced anything like this. There are too many unknowns.

Exploring new behaviors

What we can do to draw some conclusions is to observe and understand 4 emerging behaviors of companies and individuals.

  • Companies are investing in remote work infrastructure and learning how to do it. Remote work is an example of a trend that has been amplified by the CoronaVirus crisis. The growth of remote work is teaching companies that it’s easier to integrate independent workers into their teams.
  • Companies will increasingly take advantage of the flexible terms of a coworking space rather than taking on long-term leases. The need for flexible terms will continue, perhaps even more rapidly. If anything, this crisis highlights why flexibility is valuable for companies.
  • These behaviors are also happening on a personal level, as people have been seeking to reduce commitments and ownerships. There has also been a steady rise in independent work, with more freelancers and independent contractors.
  • Similar to the “first time online shoppers” via e-commerce platforms, the crisis will generate a new number of tenants that will experience flexible office space and its benefits for the first time. Those tenants will most likely prefer flexible spaces over their permanent office in the future.

The pandemic is amplifying these trends and making them more powerful than they were before. The good news is that all of these trends – the reduction in long term commitments, the rise of independent work, and the desire for more flexibility and agility – will eventually push more people into a flexible workspace.

#3 reasons why flexible workspace should emerge stronger

 

Reason No. 1: The Need for Flexible Leases 

Once the lockdown period ends, companies will lay more emphasis on cost optimization. Especially if the recovery is slow and halting, companies will probably look for options that will allow them to easily exit if they are forced to send employees home once more.

They will be seeking alternatives to traditional long-term office leases and there is an undeniable market demand for flexibility and enhanced tenant experience, which we expect to continue beyond the near-term negative economic impact of COVID-19.

flexible office lease

Reason No. 2: Remote Workers Have to Work Somewhere

Many people are now just becoming comfortable with remote work for the first time and figuring out ways to make it efficient. That could mean more employees and employers become comfortable with it. But that doesn’t mean all those remote workers will work at home forever. After a couple of months of lockdown and working from a home environment – with distractions, not enough usable workspace, or reliable Internet access – our guess is that people will be eager to work from somewhere else.

Shared workspaces, nearer to a home location, may actually be the ideal solution for many in the future months. They will give workers a flexible workspace to work and have the essential social contact lockdown has robbed from so many, yet affording non-crowded, quiet and easy to use facilities.

Reason No. 3: Community is Key to Recovery

Entrepreneurs, business owners, and workers will need social networks and local connections more than ever to regain their footing. Community strength will be essential in helping people reconnect, build new networks, and support each other.

Coworking was an idea that was founded on community, however, it had become an industry driven by real estate. A race to monopolize the industry created workspaces that required ‘as many bums on seats as possible’. Community became an afterthought. Stone Soup was created in order to bring community back to coworking. Employing generous workspace and large, flexible work areas to encourage a sense of calm. We believe that human beings should work side-by-side, not on top of one another.

 

Why Life in Athens is Attractive to Remote Workers?

Life in Athens is exciting. If you don’t go to neighborhoods like Acropolis or Plaka you will find yourself exposed to the local people and culture, while living in the center of the city is affordable and not a status quo indicator.

That was the reason why Paulin chose Athens as his base over other European cities. Paulin is a young full-stack developer from France who switched to a remote working lifestyle and he joined our space to share workspace and to meetup with other residents.

work remotely

Life in Athens is Different

Having worked and lived in several capital cities like Paris, Madrid, Lisbon, and Athens, Athens was the one to win him by comparison. Despite its rich history and many sightseeing opportunities Athens still remains affordable without losing its authenticity, even in the city center. This is quite rare for a big European capital city, as most of them end up as huge expensive tourist traps.

What he finds attractive is the hectic way the city is organized, and the possibilities this imperfection provides. Due to its flawed nature, there are lots of organizations determined to reform the community and to create a functional environment for the various vulnerable groups of people. This state invites Paulin to dare think of ways of improving the everyday challenges and make a positive impact on his local context. Therefore, upon his arrival, he was drawn to pick a cause and become part of the change in need.

Following a Social Cause

Paulin discovered quite by chance Social Hackers Academy, a coding school, where they teach vulnerable groups of people, and that was a cause he wished to volunteer to. SHA aims to enable refugees, migrants, and unemployed people to develop skills in the ICT sector and consequently find a job.

He joined in October 2019 as a volunteer teacher of Web Development courses instructed in English and he thinks highly of the whole idea and execution. In a bit more detail, each class is composed of around 15 people, and while the preparation of class material is mostly taken care of by the organization, the instructor gets the freedom to approach the topic of the lecture by choice.

The class is practical with students using laptops during it, and the environment is pretty dynamic and well-organized with a substantial impact on the student’s skills and life.

It is truly fulfilling to see those people successfully following every lecture and being able to take advantage of the opportunities they get. Knowing that there are former students who have found jobs afterward makes it even more meaningful and fuels the cause!

Further Information about SHA:

If you are interested to get somehow involved too, your input would be more than welcome. Specifically, SHA needs mentors in Hard Coding, and Soft Skills, people to run Workshops and/or speak in monthly Meetups, Marketing and Communications specialists as well as laptop donations and any possible funding support. Feel free to contact them and talk to them in person.

The Coworking Space Concept: Through the Lens of an Intern

After working at Stone Soup for the past 2 months, I can easily say that the community of people working in this space are welcoming, kind, and made the transition into an entirely different culture, almost effortless for me. I was introduced to many aspects of the local culture through food and drinks, by my coworkers – which is reflective of the kind of place the Stone Soup is.

Throughout my stay, I conducted interviews with several Stone Soup residents, which gave me a more specific insight into what they were doing and what lead them to their current position. This also gave me the chance to properly meet the people in the office, that I was seeing every day, in an organic and informal way. To a college student like me, hearing about how career paths can differ so drastically, is knowledge that both placates my worries about the future, and excites me for what’s to come.

                                           

I also gained experience with SEO marketing, which I previously knew nothing about. My understanding of SEO is very multi-faceted in the way that I was taught about it – I learnt about SEO from many different people around the office, who gave me many approaches to tackle SEO, which I could look at and consider on my own. This form of interaction, in which ideas and knowledge can be exchanged at many levels, with different attitudes, is something that about the coworking space concept that I highly appreciated.

My unique experience here can be attributed to a variety of factors, but an overarching theme revolves around the different kinds of people that I have continually met throughout my stay. The diverse job-fields that I encountered within Stone Soup, broke down the preceding connotations and traditional assumptions that I had about the “work place”. The benefits of a coworking space span a much larger scale than I had previously anticipated – the framework is not limited to startups, but is rather a window into the way that different local and social networks can function.

Many aspects of my experience here have been shaped by, and are a result of Stone Soup, an environment that fosters inclusivity in every sense of the word. There is no way for me to show my appreciation for what Stone Soup has shown me, and the kinds of opportunities that have begun to form as a result of my time here, other than by thanking each and every person that I came across during my stay. I am excited for the future of Stone Soup, and for anyone that has the chance to be a part of the community, even if for just a short while.

International workshop on space and creativity

Space and creativity workshop, is landing on 2nd July at Stone Soup as a parallel session of