“Coworking Post COVID-19” is a phrase you might have read and heard over and over again over the last few months. But what does it mean? How is coworking evolving following this global outbreak? From May 28th to May 30th, we organized Hack Coworking Online, a 48h00 e-hackathon and e-conference part of our Hack Coworking global event series, to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the coworking industry through various angles.
But before moving towards the future, let’s go back in time a little to bring some well-needed context.
Hack Coworking, the back story
Over the last 4 years, we, the Coworkies team, traveled the world of coworking in order to better understand the dynamics of coworking on what we call a gloCal level (locally and globally) as well as the impact coworking has on cities, people and workspaces. We had the opportunity to visit, so far, 413 coworking spaces across 47 cities from Berlin to Tokyo, Mumbai, Istanbul, Paris, New York and many more. Throughout our travels, the uniqueness of coworking became more and more evident. And so were the challenges the market is facing.
Knowing those challenges is one thing. But what about actually solving them?. At Coworkies, we believe solving issues is done best through collaboration. By bringing together various professionals, with different backgrounds, the challenges of today are looked at through multiple angles, allowing the co-creation of better tomorrows that includes new perspectives on current issues. The togetherness of coworking means that not only people running coworking spaces are needed around the table but so are members who are using those spaces on a daily basis and experiencing multiple challenges operators might not even perceive. Having those thoughts in mind pushed us to create Hack Coworking: a member-driven innovation event allowing coworking spaces to co-create the future of work and workspaces together with their clients.
We organized our very first edition in London, back in June 2019, which you can (re)discover here. After a successful first edition, the event gained awareness beyond London, which helped us shape the roadmap of the event for 2020. What was on the menu? Aside from London, we were planning to bring the event to Tokyo, Paris, New York. In December 2019, when coronavirus started to spread in China, we were actually in Japan, to design and co-create what was supposed to be Hack Coworking Japan 2020. We spent a month meeting with coworking spaces, companies of various shapes and sizes, professional communities to discuss their involvement as well as the best way to put the event together.
From Hack Coworking to Hack Coworking Online
In March 2020, when the Japanese Government announced that the Olympic Games will be postponed to next year, the Hack Coworking Japan team felt that making the event in September 2020 would carry too many uncertainties and took the joint decision to postpone it to 2021. March 2020 has been a very challenging month for the entire world, with coronavirus spreading at a very fast pace everywhere, pushing many coworking spaces to shut their doors and cancel their events. For the Hack Coworking team, not doing anything was not an option. Observing how coworking spaces adapted to the pandemic, shifting online, we decided to follow their steps and built Hack Coworking Online.
Doing an event online has pros and cons. The biggest pros of all most likely is that doing it virtually allows you to connect with the entire world. And this is what we did. “What about the biggest con?”you wonder. Well, doing it online meant that people could not physically connect and talk to each other, but being aware of that prior to the event, allowed us to better design the overall program.
Instead of focusing on a “pure” hackathon where people would build ideas all together, we decided to make room for conversations by building an e-conference alongside the hackathon and invite some of the people we’ve met along our journey around the world to share their stories, their experiences and their insights.
What happened during the event?
After 5 weeks of intense work, we’ve been able to bring together 100 coworking communities and 200 participants from all over the world (literally) as well as 30 speakers who shared invaluable insights over 2 days.
In order to allow anyone participating to build their own journey inside Hack Coworking Online, we designed the event with 2 tracks in mind:
The Hackathon Track allowed participants to gather with their coworking communities as well as connect with other ones from various regions of the world through the event. Together with our challenge partners we offered those communities to either solve challenges we created for them or just work on their own projects and ideas.
Through Welcomr, one of the leading access system companies out there, teams were able to rethink the user journey of people in coworking spaces taking into account the issues COVID-19 brought into the picture.
With Cobot, one of the leading coworking software companies globally, teams got the chance to design new features that would bring back members into coworking spaces.
Thanks to Coworkies, the first global job board targeted at the coworking industry, teams had the opportunity to rethink collaboration and community building in coworking spaces.
As a result, 13 teams worked on their own ideas. We will soon be releasing a separate article on the topic but as an appetizer, discover the live presentation of Lockr, the team who won the Welcomr challenge and the impressive solution they built in less than 48h.
The conference Track has been designed together with the attendees. Every participant who signed up posted a challenge they were facing right now because of COVID-19. Those challenges helped us design and structure the conference program around 5 pillars:
- Virtual coworking - understanding what it is as well as how to manage it upon reopening and/or how to monetize it.
- Returning/ Re-opening coworking spaces - what is needed/what can spaces do to bring members back to the workplace, what kind of new expectations do members have of coworking spaces and how will they use such spaces in the future.
- The new user journey in coworking space - from the moment a visitor/ a member enters the space, what should her/his journey inside the space look like to limit touch points, crowded areas and ensure safety.
- Interior design - How should coworking spaces adapt their interior design to allow physical distancing between members?
- Predictions - what can we expect more generally from workspaces to become? With larger companies understanding that they can now work remotely, what does it mean for the workplace itself? Will it serve new purposes?
Over 2 days and as said previously, 30 speakers from 10 countries shared their insights with the audience. Giving everyone some food for thought and some room for discussion.
Hack Coworking Online would surely not have had the same taste without our community partners. Thanks to their support, we were able to create this unique dish that everyone enjoyed according to all the feedback we received. We want to take the opportunity of this article to thank them all:
- COLATAM, the coworking community of Latin America.
- Yogi2Me, an incredible partner of ours, offering yoga classes in the workplace and who has supported us both in London and here.
- Startup Berlin, the largest online community of startuppers in Berlin.
- .Coworking Spain, the community of coworking operators in Spain.
- European Coworking Assembly, an association targeted at coworking spaces from Europe.
- 50inTech, a community of joined forces between women and their allies to achieve more inclusivity in tech.
- Le Wagon London, one of the largest coding schools in the world.
- Croissant, an app that lets its members try out different coworking spaces in their city for an affordable monthly fee.
- Bertelsmann Stiftung, an independent foundation promoting reform processes and the principles of entrepreneurial activity to build a future-oriented society.
Now that the context is all set, you are fully ready to dive into each session we held. In the coming days, you will be able to access on this blog the different sessions we recorded and rewatch them all, one by one. Keep a close eye on the blog and follow us on Social Media if you don’t want to miss a thing!