laptop on desk

Elizabeth Hurt

The future of the coworking industry, and how operators are maintaining business

Above photo by Christopher Gower via Unsplash

At Workspace Geek, we value ongoing conversations with our coworking and shared workspace operators. This open dialogue informs us of our customers’ evolving workspace management software needs, their take on the state of the flex space industry, and the health of their businesses. It also allows us to continue creating software suited to their goals.

We recently conducted a survey of our customers to get specifics on how they have been faring in 2020. As expected, many reported downturns in meeting room occupancy, struggles with procuring new business leads, and changes in tenant retention rates as a result of the pandemic.

However, we were encouraged by the large number of responses indicating a positive outlook for the future and showcasing the inventive ways shared workspace operators across the country have adapted and responded to these challenges.

As you’ll see below, our operators’ responses will paint a picture of an industry still recovering from the effects of the pandemic but doing so with grit, creativity and flexibility. The answers shown are just a sampling of those received.

How is business? What are your top business priorities for the rest of 2020/2021?

  • Getting existing clients back into the office, maintaining occupancy/tenant retention, clinching leads and gaining new business.
  • We are upping our online communications/marketing.
  • Our goal for 2021 is to sell more virtual plans.
  • Currently, our conference room bookings are down.
  • Currently, our occupancy is at 60-70%.

In general, what has been your biggest challenge since March? What specifically do you attribute that challenge to?

  • Client retention due to COVID.
  • Increased janitorial costs (daily instead of 3 times per week).
  • Assisting clients financially without sacrificing the business.
  • The pandemic has scared a lot of people into cutting costs, their first reaction being to cancel their service.

What has been the most surprising effect the pandemic has had on your business?

  • How inventive we are. When you’re stuck with only lemons, you make lemonade.
  • The new business we’re receiving despite these times.
  • I’ve been most surprised by the appreciation our clients have had for the procedures we’ve put in place. I’ve also been surprised at how many people are currently working from home while continuing to pay for their office.
  • Most surprising to us was the number of clients we were able to maintain. While helping them maintain their office spaces or virtual services (by offering small discounts where we could), they in turn help us maintain our business by staying with us rather than eliminating our services all together! We have experienced great 'give and take.'
  • We have an increased need for staffing yet are struggling to find good candidates.
  • We now offer payment plans and more retention incentives, which we haven’t done in the past. Surprisingly, these new options seem to be working really well in order to keep our clients and reduce our bad debt numbers.
  • College students looking for places to study.

What, if any, creative solutions have you implemented to gain new business and retain existing clients during COVID?

  • Learning how to use internet platforms to produce great online events for our associations and being at the forefront of this.
  • Special pricing, more flexible terms and conditions, free offerings and “freezing” accounts.
  • Setting pricing according to the phase of lockdown our county is in.
  • Selling more packages geared toward flexible work spaces, virtual offices, and mail services.
  • We arranged our office space in ways to accommodate all social distancing requirements and notified each client multiple times of these measures, including sending individual photos to each client so that, from their homes, they could decide when they were comfortable returning to the office.

What long term effects do you expect the pandemic to have on the shared workspace and coworking industry?

  • More virtual offices and a reconfiguration of current spaces.
  • I think we’ll see an uptick in need for flexible leases and private space.
  • It may be a boost as many companies are sending their workers home and not keeping office spaces; more people may come to us for virtual services.
  • I expect a shift back to more private offices from the open concept spaces that had been gaining popularity.
  • The change from traditional to executive spaces is going to force the executive workspace industry to grow.
  • As the larger companies downsize, we’ll be golden!

Operators also answered questions about Workspace Geek and the ways it helps streamline their business development and retention:

  • I love the “creating of invoice” function. Being able to process, view and finalize all on the same screen is super convenient.
  • Having all the client account information in one spot is very helpful.
  • The help desk is our favorite part of Workspace Geek.
  • Management reports and monthly recaps are great.

To learn more about what solutions Workspace Geek provides to coworking and shared workspaces, please click here. To request a free demo, reach out!