Coworking community during the COVID-19 pandemic

Coworking community during the COVID-19 pandemic - @CoAssemblyEU -

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By: Zeljko Crnjakovic of InfostudHub, Solutium Digital Content, Coworking Values Podcast

The pandemic of the COVID-19 virus has put most of the world in crisis mode. It seems like overnight everything is changing drastically, putting everything in a stand-still, and in many countries there is a daily fight to save lives. And this fight to preserve life is having a meteoric impact on the world economy.

The measures to preserve our health and life and that of those around us have forced us to change the way we interact, do business, have fun, go grocery shopping and even live. Many have lost their jobs; many businesses have closed down and it’s only the beginning.

If we compare this to the world economic crisis of 2008/09, the main difference is (apart from not having to fight for our health) that, at that time, we all saw the “bottom” very quickly, within a month. Even though the crisis lasted over a course of several months, we knew where the “bottom” was, and then businesses took measures to start their “climb” back. Now, we don’t know where the “bottom” is, or when we will “hit” it. That is the scariest thing – we don’t yet know what the worst thing is that could happen.

How does this reflect on coworking?

If we talk about coworking as a rental and real-estate business, it is going to hell. Coworking spaces all around Europe (and the world) have seen a drop in memberships, as most people are self-isolating. Most of our coworkers have seen a BIG drop in business, abruptly and are absorbing the shock of uncertainty: bigger businesses trying to save money, cancelling projects and not doing anything innovative but holding in place to see what will happen.Many large businesses are all about saving their capital, since (as we mentioned) they don’t know how long the crisis is going to go on for, or where it will end.

This ultimately results in coworking spaces needing to scale down, shut down temporarily, lay off employees and try to negotiate a pause or discount with their landlords.

If we consider the coworking as a community business, this pandemic has made us go against everything we have been trying to achieve – getting people together, increasing interaction, improving social lives, business networking, doing events, and so much more. All in the spirit of gathering people and creating a sense of “togetherness”.

If you are thinking that this is all over now, because of this pandemic, now is the time to ask yourselves – are your coworkers really using your space JUST because they get a desk and a chair, internet access (and free coffee)? Or are you providing more to your coworking community?

Yes, you are! All the things mentioned above. The only thing is that we need to adapt them to the new circumstances. People are now in need of that community, more than ever. For example, you could:

  • Offer the service of virtual office
  • Gather your members on Slack or Teams and get them talking in topics of interest
  • Produce more online content that can be of use to your members, or gather online resources for them
  • Start an info-newsletter gathering information in one place
  • Organize virtual coffee with a group, just for the fun of it via Zoom or Hangouts
  • Organize online events such as webinars, presentations or discussions
  • Provide mentorship, logistic or other type of assistance by connecting them to relevant people via video or chat
  • Start a podcast, blog, vlog – interview members or community leaders

There is a light at the end of the road, no matter how far away it is. Maybe we will need to adapt to the “new normal”, maybe everything will go back – we do not know. But, as with any business, especially coworking – we did not get where we are by not learning to adapt in our journey so far.

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