According to Stanford News, 42 percent of the U.S. labor force is now working from home full time. Thank you, COVID-19! And while all of our hopes lie with the promising new vaccines to save us from the COVID reality, there’s strong evidence that some aspects of life will be forever changed. Working remotely is likely to be one of them.
The stigma of working from home has been largely dispelled due to the pandemic. We’ve shown that it can be done—and done well. The Boston Consulting Group surveyed 12,000 employees and found that over 75% reported being just as productive, if not more so, when working remotely during the pandemic. And according to the Survey of Business Uncertainty (a Stanford/Atlanta Federal Reserve/University of Chicago collaboration), the forward momentum of the work-from-home movement will continue. In the survey, companies said that they expect 20% of their employees’ work will be performed remotely after the pandemic, as opposed to 5% before the pandemic.
Coworking spaces, rise up!
This trend is going to drive the demand for more coworking spaces, which were becoming increasingly popular even before the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, these spaces were dominated by small businesses, startup companies, and freelancers. Moving forward, these occupants will undoubtedly be joined by a new force of remote employees. These workers will appreciate not having to commute to the office, but for various reasons, will want to work outside of their home in a productive coworking space.
If you’re the owner or manager of a coworking space, this is great news for you. You stand to get the business of remote workers looking for a social outlet, greater inspiration for their creativity, more leg room, better wi-fi, or a reprieve from noisy neighbors or active toddlers at home. Of course, as demand for coworking spaces increases, supply will surge, too, so you’ll want to make sure that you’re poised to distinguish your space from the others.
Here are five ideas to set yourself apart:
- Create the best layout, which will probably include a blended layout for maximum flexibility. Some coworking spaces only include a series of private offices, but those don’t accommodate group meetings, networking sessions, or community lunches. The best layouts will include a combination of private offices, conference rooms, community desks, and common areas.
- Hire a community coordinator—and make sure they’re just right for the job. If you’ve ever watched “The Love Boat,” it’s the vibrant and affable Julie McCoy cruise director-type that you’re after here. Your coordinator should welcome and orient all newcomers to the space, check in on workers frequently to make sure they have what they need, organize community events, and be available to troubleshoot any concerns that may come up.
- Expand accessibility. One of the perks of coworking spaces is that they facilitate more flexible hours than conventional spaces. Ensure that you can accommodate people who want to work during non-traditional hours. If a team’s creative juices flow best at midnight, make sure there’s a meeting room open and available for them.
- Stay in touch with a newsletter. Whether through an e-newsletter or a physical newsletter distributed to each work space, stay in touch with regular communications. Use the newsletter to introduce new workers, post job openings, feature a new product or service provided by one of your clients or hype upcoming community events.
- Install a message board. Since workers will be coming and going, allow them to communicate through a board in the lobby or kitchen. Create a spotlight corner for individuals or companies who are new to your space. Recognize workers who have received promotions or companies that have won awards or reached growth benchmarks. And leave space for people to buy or sell items or post help wanted ads, request service provider recommendations, etc. A virtual version of this would be to start a Facebook page for your space.
- Upgrade your amenities. The kitchen is a great place to start. Just as the kitchen is the heart of your home, it’s also the hub of your coworking space. Make sure it’s inviting with bells and whistles such as a top-of-the-line coffee maker, ample fridge space, reliable cutlery, and seating/electrical hookups that accommodate working lunches.
Equipping community spaces with recreational equipment such as a ping pong or pool table where people can step away from their stress is a win as well. A shower and exercise equipment are strong selling points, too. Some coworking spaces even have nap rooms for workers who need that 15-minute power break to jumpstart their productivity. And finally, make sure that you have a strong suite of work-related amenities, too, such as chargers, projectors, whiteboards, etc.
- Integrate mailroom management software. Ecommerce was already skyrocketing, but the pandemic drove it into the stratosphere. Your mailroom has likely felt the strain. Now that people are accustomed to the convenience of online purchases and lightning fast deliveries, experts don’t expect trends to let up, even after the pandemic has passed. Your mailroom needs to be able to handle the uptick in package delivery.
Another challenge with mail delivery and coworking spaces is that many workers won’t be coming in every day like they would at traditional offices. You’ll need an effective way to communicate with workers, whether they’re on the premises or not, and track their preferences for holding or delivering their packages. You can attempt to do this by hand, but that’s a recipe for delays, bungled deliveries and lost packages. For maximum mailroom efficiency, not to mention happier clients, upgrade to package receiving software. This doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, there’s an app for that! Rather than dealing with error-prone, handheld scanners, switch to a mailroom app that can be deployed from a smartphone or laptop computer. In seconds, you can scan incoming package labels, log the data, and send instant notifications with photos to package recipients. The software will do the heavy lifting for you, organizing the data, tracking recipients’ delivery preferences, reminding recipients to pick up packages after a specified period of time and more.
If you want to see features that other coworking spaces are looking for in a delivery management system, read about WeWork, a global leader in coworking spaces. As one of our PackageX clients, they went from a single location with no dedicated mailroom to over 800 locations with a highly efficient, automated mailroom solution serving clients worldwide.
- Hold community functions. One of the reasons people choose coworking spaces over simply working from home is that they want the synergy that comes from a work community. It helps with innovation, productivity and networking. But in order for this to happen, people need ways to connect with their coworkers.
Task your community manager with hosting regular functions to allow people to come together. Consider these ideas:
- Lunchbreak yoga
- Ping pong competitions (assuming you have the necessary equipment)
- Minute-to-win it games
- Friday potlucks in the community kitchen. Be creative and work with a theme: build-your-own-rice-bowls (have everyone bring an ingredient to add), food from your country of origin, crock pot soup buffet, etc.
- Skills development lectures. Have coworkers sign up to share a useful skill pertaining to their line of work in 10 minutes or less. (If people are pressed for time, this could happen as a working lunch.)
- Photography or poetry contest (workers could post their entries on the aforementioned message board for vote)
- Book club Community speakers. Bring in respected people from different walks of life to share their secrets of success.
9 - Free trial. Consider offering a free trial to prospective clients to remove entry barriers. They may be gun shy about signing a contract, so let them try it without a commitment and wow them!
The business is coming—just make sure that you’re prepared to get your share of it by preparing now to offer amenities and services that go above and beyond for prospective clients.