11/18/2021

What Facility Managers Need To Know About Coworking Spaces In the Wake of COVID-19

The lingering uncertainties about the COVID-19 pandemic mean that businesses and freelancers are seeking sustainable alternatives to the past model of rigid traditional office space. EIN News reports that the global coworking space market is expected to grow from $7.97 billion in 2020 to $8.14 billion in 2021 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.1%. 

This growth is mainly attributed to companies resuming their operations and adapting to the current realities while recovering from the impacts of COVID-19.

Below, we’ll look at what facility managers (FMs) at coworking spaces can do in this new era of work and some important considerations they'll need to note to keep these unique facilities running smoothly.

Cleanliness and hygiene are critical requirements

With different people using the same facilities, managers at coworking spaces must adopt new sanitation and cleaning strategies to create safe environments for all users.

There will be a strict need to enforce C19 related health and safety protocols through actions like:

• Regular cleaning, disinfection, and sanitization. 

• Daily antiviral spraying of interior spaces and high-contact surfaces.

• Installing compulsory hand-washing and hand sanitizing stations at all entry points. 

• Put up signs and notices reminding people about hygiene requirements.

The need for flexibility 

To keep users coming back, facility managers will need to look at flexibility from two angles - Payment flexibility and layout flexibility.

Payment flexibility  

Prevailing economic uncertainties mean that businesses would be more inclined to use facilities with flexible membership payment terms. For example, instead of committing their users to long-term annual payments (annual, bi-annual, etc), FMs can explore the options of allowing users to start and stop their payments depending on unfolding events.

Layout flexibility 

Rather than offering rigid standardized workspaces, it’s advisable to plan for a more fluid setting with flexible layouts that can attract a multi-generational and multi-tenanted audience. 

Considering that their target market will range from freelancers and digital nomads to mid-sized companies, startups, and entrepreneurs, FMs at coworking spaces will need to offer a variety of arrangements that work for each group.

In that case, modular layouts and partitions that can be moved around and altered will be key requirements to carve out different spaces for small meetings and events or communal areas.

Space planning

Over the years, organizations have focused on trying to fit as many people as possible into tightly packed office spaces as a means of recovering from economic ups and downs. Today, that model will not work. Instead, The workspaces of the future will focus more on adequate spacing and other arrangements to boost workers’ productivity.

That being the case, FMs will want to consider different actions to help them enforce protocols for distancing and safety. Distancing can be achieved either manually or with the aid of software:

Manual distancing tips:

• In high-traffic areas or areas where people wait or gather, like the reception and meeting areas, mark six-foot distances on the floor to keep people apart.

• Limit the number of customers allowed in at one time and assign people to monitor compliance.

• Rearrange the seating in common break areas to maintain physical distance between customers.

• Move or reposition workstations to create more distance, and install recommended physical barriers and partitions to remind people to keep a distance.

• Keep reminding people about social distancing through signs and notices.

Using space planning software FMs can:

• Gain better insights into occupancy and space utilization.

• Automate, and streamline the allocation of spaces and desks.

• Check capacity limits and reconfigure allocations to ensure social distancing protocols. 

Building maintenance 

With different people moving around from hour to hour, using the same fittings and installations, there’s the risk of accelerated wear and tear on the building. Therefore FMs will need to leverage their best strategies and resources to stay on top of building maintenance. That’s a very broad subject. But, in reference to COVID-19, FMs will want to pay particular attention to improving Indoor air quality (IAQ) through actions like:

• Adequate, frequent, and thorough servicing of all HVAC systems and units.

• Incorporating natural air and light as much as possible, especially around areas where people are more likely to gather.

• Adopting and using CMMS software to schedule and manage tasks for maintenance and cleaning crews.

• In addition, FMs can look at introducing some outdoor seating arrangements. This will encourage users to take breaks outside and possibly reduce the infection risks from breathing the same air indoors all day.

In Conclusion 

In the wake of COVID-19, the way we work and where we work have changed. And, that’s not all. Work is still evolving. Before the pandemic, flexible work was considered a perk available to only a few “lucky” workers in very few organizations. However, going forward, the global workforce will continue to seek out a highly customized and flexible workplace experience. This will create new dynamics and challenges in the relationship between facility managers, their tenants, and the buildings they manage. 

Coworking spaces will continue to play a key role in the evolution of work. Despite COVID, FMs at these facilities need to rise to the occasion, embrace this challenge, and focus on offering sustainable solutions, like the ones discussed in this post.

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