The number of spaces available for coworking — a concept mostly unheard of just 10 years ago — has grown dramatically around the world in recent years. While only about 160 coworking spaces existed worldwide in 2008, there were close to 19,000 in 2018. Many of the world’s largest landlords have invested heavily in these spaces. As one of the few bright spots in the office-space market after the 2008 economic recession, coworking spaces represented “one of the few sources of growing demand.”
That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. When your entire business model is based on people not working from home, the worst-case scenario is a global pandemic where almost everyone is working from home. The idea of working in one of these spaces, which bring large numbers of strangers together to use shared desks and communal areas, seemed almost laughable at the peak of the pandemic. Many predicted that coworking would permanently lose its appeal, under the assumption that people would no longer feel safe working in a shared space.
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However, my research — which is based on a large, longitudinal survey, as well as over 60 interviews with members of coworking spaces — actually suggests the opposite conclusion: Coworking spaces will become even more important and more popular in the post-pandemic world, not just for entrepreneurs and freelancers (the stereotypical users of coworking spaces), but especially for large companies.
Helping to Solve the Remote Work Dilemma
Even after the pandemic passes, the world will never be the same. The work-from-home trend is here to stay, as evidenced by announcements from numerous companies — including Facebook, Twitter, Shopify, and Slack — stating that they will allow large swaths of their workforces to work from home indefinitely. Many more companies will likely follow suit, partly to save on costs, but also because many employees do not want to return to corporate offices. Once employees have experienced remote work, “they’re going to want to continue,” said Kate Lister, president of consulting company Global Workplace Analytics. She and her company predict a seismic shift in workplace culture over the next few years, with a much larger percentage of the population working from home on a permanent basis.