Careers Inside Voices

Are co-working spaces a thing of the past?

A few weeks into quarantine, we started seeing memes about how we’re now finding out exactly which meetings could have been emails. It’s been three months since, and many professionals have adjusted to this new mode of working and communicating with peers. With offices still hesitant (and with good reason) to require employees to physically come to work, the concept of the agora, however tried and valued for centuries, is looking like it could fade into obsolescence. If so, what’s to become of this relatively new, hip thing called the co-working space, that was, up until a few months ago, having a moment?

“Having a workspace remains as a powerful tool to foster engagement, inspire innovation, and drive productivity. A well designed one will further elevate the work environment and experience for employees, promoting better collaboration, comfort and happiness in the workplace. It is now even more important to provide employees with the confidence of a workplace that prioritizes their health and safety,” Turochas “T” Fuad, WeWork managing director for Southeast Asia, and Korea.

In 2017, the Philippines experienced a co-working space boom as millennials found their passions outside of the 9-to-5, fueling the gig economy. Not only did many business owners find it more practical to hold office at these membership-based shared spaces, studies also showed that employees actually thrive in this environment, primarily due to the well-designed work environment and the dynamic work experience.

As the country faces the imminent lifting of quarantine protocols, WeWork predicts co-working spaces will be able to address the changes in the needs and capacities of companies in light of the pandemic. “As many of our enterprise members have a global presence through us, they have been turning to us for counsel and guidance to navigate the evolving situation and ensure the safety of their employees across the region,” Fuad said. “We are also seeing an increase in proactive conversations from our members and non-members to better understand the importance and relevance of space-as-a-service as part of their business continuity planning strategy.” 

Further, according to WeWork, flexible workspaces give enterprises of all sizes the ability to scale the amount of space needed. COVID-19’s impact on the economy has shown the need for organizations to take on a conservative approach when it comes to operational needs such as lease flexibility. In fact,  larger enterprises are future-proofing operational efficiencies by innovating their global real estate strategy and forging strong partnerships with flexible workspaces. Global and regional companies looking to do business in the Philippines particularly go to co-working spaces for their real estate needs.

Whether shared workspaces will remain in demand in the new work order remains to be seen, but they do still offer a viable alternative to paying full rent, as well certain perks that neither the old-school office nor the home office can provide. The WeWork SEA team has been preparing either way, reviewing feedback and working with industry partners and government bodies across health and safety, cleaning, construction, and design to install enhancements. From modifying shared spaces with staggered seating and buffer zones to heightened cleaning and sanitization measures, the focus will be on three key areas: prioritizing personal space, cleanliness, and behavioral signage.

“We will always be driven by the concepts of community and connection and ready to pivot to what companies need. This is what truly makes us WeWork,” Fuad says. For interaction-deprived humans of the world, that certainly sounds a lot better than an email.

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