Co-office working spaces still loom as an attractive option to remedy the limitations of working from home, but their full potential can only be realised once the public health risks of high-density offices abate.
The barriers to productivity while working from home differ for each industry and recent evidence suggests a number of employees are eager to return to the office. A recent UniSpace survey that found 36 per cent of participants have found it difficult to work fluently from home due to caregiving requirements, ineffective setups and a delay in immediate communication with colleagues. UniSpace, whose survey comprised 237 companies, further highlight the common strategy of different employers to send staff “back in waves” and use “more collaboration spaces”. Such a significant amount of respondents that decry their stifling home offices underpins the general consensus that social connections are important and as businesses look to streamline their costs, co-working office spaces provide prospective employers a chance to share a lease in aid offering the working conditions desired by their employees once the coronavirus is contained.
A sharp increase in global vacancy rates across city-fringe offices, at first glance, seem to suggest traditional and co-working spaces are deemed as a current public health risk. On one hand, the amount of procedure and compliance required to make a safe co-workspace with numerous different demographics is a tall order at the current moment. However, a cursory look at New York co-work office space giants, Industrious, underpins a tremendous post-pandemic opportunity for commercial real estate investors who are willing to offer flexible lease terms as the coronavirus case numbers drop. Connected Real Estate published the findings of JLL’s Director of Research Scott Homa – “a lot of [co] office providers sign traditional leases that leave them responsible for long-term costs and inconsistent income streams”. Prospective investors in commercial real estate may want to pivot towards the Industrious model that mirrors the agreements more akin to hotel operators by which the “company receives a management fee and a portion of the profits from its spaces based on performance”. Co-workspaces that adopt the Industrious angle may very well fulfil a need in a post-pandemic society, as it shares the risk with the tenant and gives the company partners to work alongside if any difficulties arise.
An emerging school of thought around co-workspaces suggests they are a necessary part of the future landscape; however, a broader purpose will help consolidate its success. PwC Australia partner Lawrence Goldstone told The Age he agreed the industry could suffer higher vacancy rates in the short-term, but he expected to see co-working spaces eventually “develop and succeed” as long as the definition around their purpose broadened. Whether Goldstone is referring to the need for co-working spaces to accommodate more than just agile and sporadic interstate workers, the pandemic has adapted the co-workspace to fulfil the training needs of start-ups and government initiatives.
The recent Entrepreneurs Programme, comprising a partnership between the Australian Government’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and the Queensland State Government’s department of State Development, Tourism and Innovation is a promising use of co-working spaces for a future boom. Anthill Online said the accelerator program will award successful applicants with more than $50,000 in-kind value including: “co-working space at Cohort Innovation Space, personalised connections from over 25 industry partners… [and] 10 expert-led workshops”.
As state governments invest in new business programmes that require the amenities of co-workspaces, commercial property investors are sure to find future opportunities in leasing these big spaces to keep pace with the demand that is sure to ensue when a vaccine is available.