By Rose Saborse, director of community and partnerships
Since the first coworking space opened in 2005, the popularity of coworking has grown significantly and has been adopted around the world. In 2018, Google Trends predicted there will be more than 30,000 coworking spaces by the year 2022 with an annual growth rate of 24.2%.
Of course, these numbers were predicted before the COVID-19 pandemic, which turned the world upside down. However, according to the Global Coworking Growth Study 2020, “The number of spaces worldwide is set to grow by 116% with around 5 million people working from coworking spaces by 2024, an increase of 158% compared to 2020.”
With millions of workers forced to work from home and companies needing to adapt to a remote workforce, it is clear to us that coworking is a concept whose time has come.
What is Coworking?
According to Coworker.com, it is “a style of working in an innovative environment, that is more flexible in its approach than traditional office environments. There are thousands of these shared office spaces, known as coworking spaces, in almost every country on Earth.”
Coworking is also defined by the Oxford Dictionary, as “the use of an office or other working environment by people who are self-employed or working for different employers, typically so as to share equipment, ideas, and knowledge.”
The concept of coworking and coworking spaces was first conceived when a software engineer and entrepreneur wanted to find a way to combine the feeling of independence and freedom of working by himself with the community feel and structure of working with others. Since then, a litany of benefits has emerged, including:
- Increased productivity
- Increased innovation and creativity
- A sense of community
- Flexibility in time and space options
- A professional presence
- An alternative to working from home
In other words, working in a room filled with driven people increases the chance to network which makes new opportunities flow organically.
Coworking at Bounce
To help foster collaboration and innovation among Akron’s entrepreneurs, remote workers, small businesses, and corporations, Bounce created the Generator. The Generator comprises the first floor of Bounce and is a place where the local community and our members can connect. Opened in May 2019, it has become a central location for the community, with a coffee shop, conference rooms and event spaces, with a variety of coworking memberships, ranging from drop-in day passes to multi-person offices.
Since opening, Bounce has welcomed more than 132 monthly and day-pass coworking members and almost 10,000 visitors for events and company meetings.
When asked why they joined Bounce, one of our reserved desk members replied: “I’m a remote worker for a major company with headquarters based in Germany; I’m an Akron native and wanted to find a place that offers both flexibility and structure. I’ve worked at other coworking spaces around the US and when I heard of Bounce, I immediately decided to join. It is really great to work in a space that provides a creative culture and access to like-minded individuals.”
Others cited flexibility, a creative workspace, and a culture of like-minded individuals working together as reasons for joining.
The Effects of a Global Pandemic
To be honest, we’re not sure what the long-term effects of the pandemic will be, since we’re still in the middle of it. Globally, many coworking spaces shuttered their doors for good. People canceled their memberships or stopped paying due to their inability to work. The membership cancellations left companies like WeWork unable to pay their rent and employees, leaving most spaces with no choice but to close permanently.
Now that we’re slowly opening back up again and trying to predict the “new normal,” we’re eager to see if the predictions are right and that coworking spaces will regain their traction or if the new standard of social distancing will play a longer toll on one of the fastest growing trends around the world.
Weathering the Storm
In February, we saw our largest membership group to date – 54 full-time members and more than 100 day-pass members.
Then in March, everything changed due to the pandemic. Our public areas were closed, but through careful planning, Bounce has successfully weather the pandemic with no staff lay-offs. We lost some coworking members and daily foot traffic all but disappeared, but we continued to serve our program clients and managed to retain many members.
When Bounce re-opened to the public, we released a list of protocols to ensure safety and health. Using creative thinking and resources, we mandated face masks, increased our sanitizing and disinfecting efforts, and instituted around-the-clock maintenance crews for high-traffic areas. Our team created traffic lanes on the first floor and reduced the amount of seats. I.e., we’ve taken every precaution and made every effort to ensure that we are providing a safe coworking space for our members.
Since then, we’ve seen members starting to come back and we’ve acquired a handful of new members. With most employers now allowing, or thinking about allowing, remote work, we believe we will see growth again. It is our hope that we can get back to the same numbers we were at in February and safely expand upon them based on the new influx of remote workers across the country.
The Future is Now
The industry is quickly recovering from the impact of COVID-19, as well, and some regions have already reached pre-crisis levels according to the Global Coworking Growth Study 2020. According to a survey conducted in May 2020, 56% of professionals in the U.S. expect to work remotely at least part time, and around 29% expect to work remotely on a full-time basis. Such insights reflect not only how work practices are changing for individuals, but also how businesses are embracing working with small remote teams, regardless of their location.
With increased unemployment, we also expect to see more folks turn to entrepreneurship, just like in 2008 after the Great Recession. In fact, Bounce also offers several tracks of entrepreneurial services that cater to both tech and non-tech companies with a new program focused on minority-owned businesses.
If you’re curious about coworking, we encourage you to come and check us out. Until the end of this month, we’re giving away five free day passes to any non-member. Learn more and claim your Five Free Day Passes: https://bouncehub.org/coworking/
**Please note several of the pictures featured in this post were taken early in 2020, prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.