The future of work is here!

We spend approximately 90 000 hours of our lifetime working, so it’s no surprise that the disruption of COVID-19 would drastically shake things up in this prominent area of our lives. In March this year, out of nowhere and overnight, workers found themselves having to adapt to new ways of connecting professionally and working remotely. Although a notion that existed pre-COVID-19, working remotely was still unfamiliar territory for many. From anxieties about productivity to blurring the lines between work and home life, this way of doing things required a total shift in thinking and the ability to adapt quickly.

While steadily gaining in popularity over the years, futurists say that the pandemic merely accelerated what was already set to become the working world norm. Further to this, it has bought the concept of co-working office spaces to the fore as an alternative to purely home-bound working, and a way for companies to re-evaluate their structures and cut back on bloated operating and administration costs. In fact, A 2020 study on coworking trends found that coworking spaces worldwide is set to double by 2024, estimating that the number of people opting for coworking over the next four years will climb to 5 million, an increase of 158% compared to 2020.

Coworking can be defined as a ready-to-use working environment in which workers from different companies share an office space and enjoy a sense of community. This allows for cost-savings, flexibility, and convenience through the use of shared infrastructure, such as utilities, internet connection and equipment, and receptionist and custodial services.

The projected growth in the coworking space is encouraging seen as the commercial real estate and co-working sector initially took a huge knock at the onset of the pandemic in early 2020. However, the need to offer virtual support and flexibility, especially for those who don’t prefer working from home, during COVID-19 has seen increased interest in coworking spaces with more businesses, big and small, realising its overall benefits. Given that these spaces are an ideal place to work remotely while continuing to social distance, a lot of companies have now introduced remote working into their long-term business strategies.

I believe a bigger awakening or ‘aha’ moment for businesses at this time, is that they are finally seeing just how outdated the traditional stuffy office model is. It does not align with our modern lifestyles, consider individual needs, or necessarily promote productivity.

As we face an uncertain economy, it also makes sense to work smarter, and this means exploring more affordable working solutions such as opting for flexible leases over fixed long-term commitments. Why pay for large overheads when you can pay for what you need as you need, especially in the age of virtual connection? Renting meeting rooms and virtual offices that come fully equipped with all the tech frills by the hour, utilising casual hot desking or semi-permanent spaces, makes it easy for businesses to scale up or down when necessary.

Interestingly we are now seeing higher demand for co-working options from larger corporates and enterprises looking to decentralise their workforce and manage remote teams. More start-ups, freelancers and SMEs which are critical to the growth and recovery of our economy, are also looking for collaborative environments that provide networking opportunities for them to grow their market share.

On the other side of the coin, our new ‘normal’ has similarly prompted workers themselves to re-evaluate how they wish to work in the future, favouring companies that have taken the ‘leap’ to offer flexibility, accessibility, and promote work-life balance. In operating three coworking office spaces across Cape Town suburbs (Claremont, Constantia, and a soon-to-launch branch in Somerset West), it’s become noticeably clear to me how accessibility and proximity of the workplace impacts this balance. This is another lesson and ‘aha’ moment businesses can take from the pandemic and a reason why coworking offices will only continue to thrive. By offering workers an alternative space to time-consuming trips to the CBD, we are considering the holistic wellbeing of the workforce.

Coworking is no longer the future of the working world, it is the present, and the potential for growth in the sector has never been higher.

Given the rising demand for coworking solutions, Venture Workspace will be opening a third branch in Somerset West in January 2021. The space is located at the trendy Sanctuary Mall, giving workers an all-inclusive experience for both work and play. The coworking packages on offer will include hotdesking, fully serviced shared and private offices, virtual offices as well as meeting rooms. All utilities, internet connection and reception services are included with the added bonus of free parking.