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Dimitar Inchev

My Friends Don’t Work in a Coworking Space

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It is strange that the COVID-19 crisis needed to happen so I can realize how small the coworking world is, and fragile.

Are your friends working out of a coworking space? Mine are not. If the coronavirus situation didn't happen, probably it would have taken a while until this would change.

Friends not coworking

Due to the lock-downs all over the globe everyone needed to stay and work from home. For coworking spaces, whose business is dependent on the physical presence of people in their premises, this is just devastating. For weeks now, spaces are trying to figure out a way to keep their community together online. Some do it with morning coffees, others with daily check-ins, or using some useful tools to simulate coworking throughout the whole day.

For my friends, all of this doesn't matter, because they are not coworking in general. What happened to them is they get to experience remote work for the first time. Quite a drastic change for some of them I can tell you.

My friends are surgeons, artists, creatives, founders, architects, designers, financial directors and so on. Just like anyone else's friends, they are a diverse bunch. While thinking about the coworking and coronavirus situation I realized that the most common thing about my friends is that they don't work in a coworking space. Until now.

While building Coworkies we've spent 5 years going around the globe and talking to people about the need for coworking communities to connect and empower each other online. By sharing jobs, skills and knowledge. So far we’ve been to 412 spaces in 47 cities. I consider it a reasonable amount to be able to form an opinion on the global coworking mindset.

The sad truth is that many spaces rejected the idea of a globally connected network for their members as they fear competition. With WeWork cannibalizing tactics, many spaces were losing members by the numbers in a matter of weeks. Also, it's easier to monetize your community when you put a wall around it. But that's another story. Whatever the wall is, it will fall down and sometimes humans don't make the choice.

With COVID-19, all of a sudden coworking spaces realized that having a strong online community matters a lot. When people are not able to come to your physical premise, they lose the need for your space, hence they become disengaged. How many members will keep their rent, if the lockdown continues for 3-4 months? Not many I would guess and not many will have a steady income as before the pandemic. So when one is facing the decision on cutting costs, coworking comes first.

In those times one can easily evaluate if a coworking space's added value is only a physical space or something more, something of use and value to their customers. Because at the end of the day a member means a customer for coworking spaces. And as in any other business, customers pay to use/get services. Most coworking spaces, up until the COVID-19 situation, thought that their product is a physical space, they chop it up and rent it piece by piece. The situation showed that this is not the real value, if in a troublesome situation, customers easily cut their ties with the space and leave it to the forces. Well, it has become obvious that the business of coworking needs to be more than just a desk and a chair, and a free coffee. It needs to add real value to the wallets of people.

To do that coworking spaces need to transform their thinking and start to embrace real collaborative business models, where their most valuable asset is how much difference they make for the wallet of their members. The overused community talk needs to end, it's important but will not keep a person paying rent if the place is closed for 3 months. What's important is: Are spaces bring people work, connections, and opportunities to evolve their professional life? Those are the things that matter. Not the free coffee.

Update: Community happens when you fight for it. There are awesome examples from around the world where coworking founders fight for their community. Like Tânia Santos from Cru Cowork, who managed to pull of a online store for her coworking space & other peers in Portugal to help them sell what they make online.

After the COVID-19 pandemic coworking as we know it will have a new competitor. A competitor that evolved out of coworking in times of pandemic - virtual coworking. And this is when my friends will all be coworking. They will be coworkers in a bunch of communities online, formed around professional interests, locations or hobbies.

And the best thing is I will be able to cowork with them, share ideas, help each other and sometimes go to a “real” coworking place offline and punch in few lines of code, write few emails and push few pixels together. And about my surgeon friends? Well, soon they will be able to work from home too, but that's just too meta for now.

Being online just became a thing for coworking spaces.

The king is dead, long live the king!

If you are thinking about virtual coworking, check our step-by-step guide on how to do it with Coworkies and create a virtual coworking space for your community. Born again coworking

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