There are many reasons why the coworking industry should emerge from the COVID-19 crisis not only stronger but also more important and necessary. In fact, they’re probably one of your key recovery assets now. Here are just a few reasons:
In the future, to avoid disruptions caused by such catastrophes as COVID-19, large corporations will likely look to “de-densify” their offices—both to help their employees manage the crisis and transition in the recovery, as well as to avoid future such disruptions. Big companies of all kinds already locate some employees in coworking spaces. Many people are now just becoming comfortable with telework for the first time and figuring out all sorts of ways to make it smooth. 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 at home, it may make people eager to work from somewhere else, anywhere else.
Resource Coordination for Small Business
Coworking spaces don’t just serve the needs of remote workers: they are a crucial support structure for small businesses, sole proprietors, the self-employed, and other entrepreneurs. In particular, they are a lifeline for small businesses that “operate on the periphery” of local economies. For many of them, working at home doesn’t provide a solution, and the burden falls especially hard on those in lower income quintiles.
Many small businesses already face significant barriers in accessing capital or local business networks. They might not have the wherewithal to apply for new loans and grants. City officials are already expressing concern and frustration that they can’t get in touch with all their small businesses who could benefit government assistance programs. Coworking spaces are well-positioned to help coordinate and direct the assistance being pushed out through various local emergency relief funds. They are better connected to the peripheral and hard-to-reach businesses; they know them, in many cases, personally; and, they have trusting relationships with them. Mayor or philanthropic foundation or chamber of commerce, you should turn to your local coworking spaces to see (a) how they can help you support the local economy, and (b) how you can support them in continuing to fulfill their vital role.
Community is Key to Recovery
Coworking spaces are local economic engines in their own right. TheyIn its 2020 Impact Report, released in January, Launch Pad revealed that, across its five locations, their member businesses had:
- Created jobs,
- Raised equity capital, and
- Lease large amounts of commercial real estate.
Those are exactly the kinds of numbers that city and regional leaders care about. Come summer, after the emergency period of the crisis abates, they’ll be looking for ways to create jobs and fill office space. Coworking spaces can help.
Just as important as economic impact is the community dimension—and that will be critically important for recovery and rebound. As we move into a future defined by some ever-present level of social distancing, community ties could fray. The economic hit to small businesses may lead to “decay” in “organizational capital” which will be hard to restore. Entrepreneurs, business owners, and workers will need social networks and local connections more than ever to regain their footing. When lockdowns end, however, it won’t be like flipping a switch. Some businesses won’t reopen; some entrepreneurial dreams will be permanently stymied. Community strength will be essential in helping people re-connect, build new networks, and support each other. That’s what effective coworking spaces do: they’re community hubs, essential sources of the Local Connectedness that will be a key ingredient in rebounding from the crisis.