David Johnston, who co-founded MyWorkSpot co-working space in Maidenhead, discusses how space such as his will operate in future.
The Covid-19 lock-in in the UK has been and continues to be a hugely challenging and worrying time for almost everyone.
It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do or how much money you have, the virus has impacted your life.
However, as a co-founder of www.myworkspotuk.com, a flexible office and co-working operator based in Maidenhead, Berkshire, the last three months of uncertainty has been an opportunity for me like many other regional operators based outside of London to put a few theories to the test.
- How will the customer base of a co-working hub react at a time of crisis?
- Will enforced remote working change habits ongoing?
The first question was quickly answered, it has been a tough time for everyone, but the support from the vast majority of customers and companies has been overwhelming.
For companies like ours which spend a huge proportion of time building up the community aspect of our customer base over and above simply providing offices and desks, that has been a critical glue.
Sure, we have lost some companies on some of the more flexible contracts, but the expectation is that they will return once the world returns to some form of normality (read, the kids go back to school).
The second question is more interesting however, because in my view the returning ‘normal’ will not be exactly the same as the normal was as before the crisis.
For office workers, one lesson we have all learned is that for the vast majority of people, thanks to technology, have managed to do our jobs every bit as well remotely as we would have done chained to the main office desk every day.
What’s more, business management has realised it as well. This has been the largest experiment of its kind in the UK and has maybe forced some businesses or industries that were maybe too ‘important’ or fixed in their ways to allow employees the choice of flexible working, to start thinking differently.
However, working remotely does not necessarily mean working from home, and over the last four to six weeks this has become more and more apparent at MyWorkSpot.
A large proportion of those first to return to the office have not been from local small businesses, but instead, are corporate employees from large central offices based traditionally commuting to London or elsewhere.
The reality for many is that many are not set up properly to work from the kitchen table and they would still like an office to use, just it has to be closer to home.
I, like many other operators, have been pontificating on the benefits of a satellite office and ditching the unnecessary commute for years, but it does seem that the Covid-19 situation has added some real momentum to this corporate audience. Remote working is not a once a week ‘treat’ any more, but is becoming a standard working practice
Technology solutions for corporate teams
However, what has convinced me that office trends are changing is that we are not only talking to end employees taking individual memberships, but we are actively hearing from corporate management in charge of bigger teams who are looking for regional options where their employees can book local office resources, desks or meeting rooms when they need them.
I’ll leave it to others to decide what it means for the future of the central office and I believe that will absolutely still have a role to play. But it does mean that smaller independent operators like me have to provide solutions that plays to needs of this corporate audience.
Here at MyWorkSpot, we have adapted to provide a ‘home hub’ option for employees. They can either become a member directly and take out one of our flexible packages, OR we work with a company to create a solution for a group of employees.
For example, a company might have 10 employees in this region but actually only need five desks because most of those employees are happy to work from home two to three days a week.
Using our co-working software Optix which develops the MyWorkSpot app, we are able to provide corporate teams with the ability to book desks instantly from their reserved group of desks or even a private office, by the day.
All members of the team can check availability via the app and see what remains available on what days.
This way, team members can schedule in their week either working from home or from the MyWorkSpot office in advance, making sure they are in a professional environment for that important call or meeting with other colleagues, rather than home.
This solution ensures the employee have access to the office desk or meeting room when they need it, while also controlling costs for the employer by ensuring a more efficient use of space based around employees’ preferred working patterns.
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