We are well aware by now of how drastically COVID-19 has changed the way businesses function, and with the closure of so many offices recently, companies are not only looking at the way they work, but also the “where”.
Working From Home was the mandatory order given to many of us, and as restrictions are gradually eased from within the third national lockdown, the prolonged effects of a loss of routine coupled with social isolation, have made producing inspired and focused work a more challenging task than it has ever been before.
But when we go back to the office, does the traditional office space remain practical? Or is there something better, more modern, and more exciting waiting in the wings? In this article we explore the pros and cons of both workspaces to help you decide — do you return to work as usual? Or is it time to try something new?
Okay, so coworking is not exactly “new”, but it’s certainly being spoken about more now that the pandemic has resulted in strict new office regulations. Many do not want to open their offices due to the risks; others are unable to, and others still are forbidden from opening. Hefty fines await anyone who disobeys the rules, and in the economic decline brought on by the pandemic, it’s a very serious consideration for most. As well it should be.
Creativity, collaboration and change; three key elements that flourish within a coworking environment which may not be as effective in your traditional office space. So how do office spaces encourage or suppress these elements? Allow us to explain.
Coworking spaces are designed with creativity and productivity in mind; inspiring workspaces and surroundings help to focus the mind on the task, while providing a safe and comfortable space that employees enjoy attending. After all, a relaxed mind will produce a higher standard of work than that from a tense employee.
Traditionally, offices were built for function: they provided a (hopefully) distraction-free environment that enabled employees to get their work done. However, with the marketplace more competitive than ever, creativity has seen a rise over practicality. Humans are naturally drawn to beauty, so it should come as no surprise that they will innately prefer to work in a beautiful environment rather than a purely-functional space. Beauty sparks inspiration, so when companies take time to focus on their interiors, they are in fact making an investment into the quality of their end product.
This is certainly the most difficult element at the present time due to the risks, however if the rules are adhered to, collaboration can still take place safely. And it should; we are social beings who perform better as a result of communicating with one another. Ideas can be bounced around and honed, isolation can be alleviated, and just sitting in a space with others working around you can have a profound impact on your ability to focus.
In this climate, most coworking spaces will have spacious collaborative areas already incorporated as part of their design; traditional offices, on the other hand, may find they struggle to provide collaborative space within the restrictions we currently operate within. Those without a dedicated meeting room in their office will undoubtedly struggle to find space where focused collaboration can take place, and work may become poorer as a result.
There’s a lot of change about nowadays — and never more than in the last year or so, which is why this is such a vital characteristic of coworking. In light of the unprecedented situation we all found ourselves in, many coworking companies were able to provide the spatial requirements far more easily than a traditional office could have.
Coworking spaces tend to be highly adaptable, due to their typically spacious and modular arrangements. Not only does this type of interior help channel creativity and focus, but it also allows for the furniture to be moved around and spaces redesigned. The traditional office, on the other hand, would ftend to be much more rigid in terms of furniture placement, with space per worker often being limited.
We have listed some key components that are important, certainly in the current situation, and arguably beyond too.
Given the current situation, being able to rapidly shrink down or scale up your office space is an incredibly valuable service. Many have been left paying large rents for spaces they have been unable to use for most, if not all of, the year.
Networking opportunities are non-existent from a typical office space as you are surrounded by company employees all day, every day. In a coworking space, you may have your colleagues around you, but you will certainly have other people working in all sorts of different industries. Exchanging business services is easily and frequently done within coworking offices, and can open your company up to offers and services they hadn’t previously come across.
These costs are — as you would expect — rather high for those who rent large office blocks. Even an office on the smaller side can take a huge chunk of earnings from solopreneurs and SMEs. So typical offices are typically expensive, but is coworking that much cheaper?
In short — yes! Unlike office rentals, there are no high up-front costs. A fully furnished office, complete with supplies, an amped up cleaning regime and inbuilt management staff overseeing the facility and reception, means that just like that the majority of your overheads are gone. Insurance is in place, bills are taken care of; all you pay in a coworking office is for the space you want to work at, when you want to work there.
Traditional offices can be rented with or without furniture, however the various overheads are rarely covered. As we discussed above, this is not the case in coworking spaces, where all typical office supplies are provided and all associated costs covered. Internet, insurance, cleaning, electricity and water will never again appear in your outgoings with a coworking space. It is undeniably a great deal more cost-efficient than your typical office.
While these may be unavoidable from time-to-time, we do have to address them. Traditional offices typically present less distractions, but that is not to say they don’t happen. Coworking spaces may prove challenging for a highly distractible employee unless they are properly supervised. The reason behind this is that coworking has more structure and routine than they would experience at home, but less than can be expected from a traditional office.
Direct supervision is available in the typical office, but is far less likely in a coworking environment as their employees may be spread across several different coworking locations. It becomes the manager or supervisor’s responsibility to ensure they are communicating effectively with their employees and perhaps providing more clarity than they might otherwise have done.
A toxic workplace is one that is plagued by drama, tension and unhappy employees. It has more to do with the workplace than the employees, because even a happy employee can become bogged down by the drama they have to contend with on a daily basis. A toxic workplace certainly isn’t a place where a good standard of work can be produced.
Employers tend to address the physical working environment last, and that is a mistake. The physical environment dictates how invigorated their staff feel, and I’m pretty sure when I ask you to imagine a typical office, the vision that springs to mind certainly wouldn’t be described as ‘inspiring,’ much less ‘invigorating.’
A coworking space will typically provide you with a choice of spacious, well-lit workspaces. Outside of COVID, hot-desks are a popular option for many, who select the desk they want to work at based on what appeals to them that day. This means they have the space and freedom to avoid any toxic employees and keep their minds fresh and work-focused.
Everyone is different, and while some excel at working from home, this certainly isn’t the case for the vast majority of people. Poor mental health has seen a massive spike during this isolating pandemic, so it is now more important than ever to reduce the stress and upheaval of employees as far as possible.
A coworking environment can be an excellent place to get focused work done for some, but others may find it difficult to see faces constantly changing, and likewise the hot-seating desks may not appeal to people who like to know their routine and get on with it. Some may prefer their old office as it is familiar and unchanging. It is important to check in with your employees and find out how they feel about any significant changes, particularly as they have already dealt with so many over the past year.
By now you will have realised the potential of coworking spaces — particularly during the pandemic — but also beyond, as they have so many cost-saving benefits in comparison to traditional workplaces.
For those of you interested in trying out coworking spaces, we offer the following packages at Areaworks to fit around what you need:
To find out more, take a look at our office locations and select the one that’s right for you. You’ll then be shown the packages available at that location. Or, click here for memberships at either Colindale or Farringdon.