Coworking Member’s Expectations during and after the pandemic.

A conversation with Daniela Sanhueza Gallardo, Franziska Heuschkel and Gisella Casolaro.

Posted by [Pauline Roussel] on Tuesday, August 18, 2020
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Daniela started the conversation by explaining why they created a survey targeted at users of coworking spaces. Engelnest, the space she works for, opened in October 2019. Their strategy to acquire new members was to host real-life events, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, they were unable to do so. Being unsure of how to approach the situation in the first two weeks of March, they wanted to understand if people were willing to use coworking spaces during the pandemic. They conducted a survey to determine people’s needs and feelings towards co-working and shared offices.

Surveying Coworking Members During Covid-19

The survey was conducted in April 2020, and for 2 weeks, to understand people’s needs and feelings towards coworking spaces. The survey was distributed through Facebook groups, social media posts, and personal contacts, and had 85 participants and targeted creative people, entrepreneurs, and small businesses. The speaker also emphasizes the importance of considering the context of the survey, including the fear of COVID-19 and the unique situation in Berlin. Lastly, Daniela notes that the context of the pandemic and social pressure to stay at home likely influenced the responses received.

Main Highlights of the survey: 

  • For people who were used to working from home before, productivity has not been significantly impacted by the pandemic. These people also reported being happy working from home and did not express a strong desire to work in a coworking space. 
  • People who previously commuted to work may have appreciated the extra time that working from home provided, but may eventually want a change of scenery to avoid negative impacts on their mental health.
  • 23 people out of the total of 85 respondents said they would use a coworking space even if their productivity hasn’t been affected, suggesting that people want to change their work environment and not be at home all the time. Some people who said their productivity has decreased and are unable to separate work and personal life also said they are scared to go to a coworking space. 
  • The challenge for coworking spaces is to ensure that cleaning measures are being taken and to make private single offices more affordable, as more people are interested in them than flex desks.

Daniela believes that the recent reopening of cafes in Berlin presents an opportunity for coworking spaces to attract remote workers who are hesitant to use public spaces due to the risk of infection. She suggests providing a less crowded and safer environment for remote workers to work and socialize through small community events. She also mentions the survey results showing that most people had experience with working from home before the pandemic and were happy with their productivity. The majority of people were also in total quarantine at the time of the survey.

Most people reported that working from home is not amazing, and many are negative about it. These people are potential targets for coworking spaces. Daniela notes that the survey was taken two months ago, and people’s attitudes may have changed with the easing of government regulations. Additionally, fear of the virus has likely decreased.

According to the survey, people who previously worked from home may be interested in coworking spaces due to COVID-19 restrictions. Daniela emphasizes the importance of proximity to the coworking space, particularly to avoid public transportation, and notes that coworking spaces located in residential neighborhoods may be more desirable. 

She suggests that coworking spaces should consider offering more single private offices or offices for small teams. The survey found that proximity was the most important factor for those who would consider coworking. Other factors mentioned included the availability of parking, disposable cups and cutlery, and COVID-19 precautions.

Daniela notes that their coworking space initially focused on hosting events to attract people, but they have had to shift their strategy due to the pandemic. The speaker suggests that coworking spaces can support each other by creating alliances.

Live Conversation with Coworking Users

Joining the conversation: 

Franziska Heuschkel, Co-founder of Space and Pepper an agency that develops community spaces. They work with coworking spaces and co-living spaces, among others. She offers two perspectives since they work with coworking spaces and also work from time to time at Factory Berlin. For larger community spaces, safety measures were implemented and social events were canceled. However, as things are loosening up in Germany, people are coming back to coworking spaces and the group has survived the crisis well.

Gisella Casolaro, Founder of MePoweredPro and coworking members. She has not physically returned to her coworking space yet but has been participating in online events as a member. She plans to return when the space reopens and is also planning to join a coworking space in Valencia in July. She mentions that safety measures are a concern, but she will follow government regulations. 

How Shall Coworking Spaces Market Their Space Post Pandemic?

According to Franziska, it’s all about being genuine and honest, as well as empowering their members to take an active role in the community. An initiative that she appreciated from Factory Berlin was when they reached out and offered to support their members in hosting their own events.

Gisella believes that coworking spaces need to have a clear brand identity and proposition that they communicate both offline and online. She suggests that successful coworking spaces, like the one she frequents in London, have a strong sense of community and translate their branding and events online. She also believes that PR is important to communicate safety measures, especially with regard to COVID-19 regulations. Overall, she advises coworking spaces to focus on their brand identity and communication strategies, both offline and online, in order to attract and retain members.

What Are Coworking Members Paying Attention To Post-Pandemic?

Daniela feels safe in her coworking space because it is not heavily trafficked and members tend to stick to their chosen spaces. She feels more uncomfortable in public transportation. 

Gisella said she will now be more selective about the coworking spaces she uses due to changes in behavior and emotional state caused by COVID-19. She also mentioned that the coworking space’s design and operations should take into account the users' needs and comfort, which may include hygiene and safety measures. Lastly, she suggests talking to community managers and understanding the users' needs to provide an empathetic experience.