Why Baltimore's coworking spaces will play an important role post-pandemic
As flexibility becomes the new norm even for the strictest corporate environments, the novel coronavirus pandemic may mean the end of the traditional office culture as we know it, and could spur a widespread shift to remote workspaces.
At the start of the year, Baltimore was home to more than 25 shared office spaces. While it’s unknown if all 25 locations will remain post-pandemic, what is clear is the need to modify shared workspaces to address growing concerns with sanitization and social distance measures that will be in place for the foreseeable future.
The coworking spaces set up for this remote work model will not only support our city’s ability to embrace this new norm, but will impact our community’s ability to thrive post-pandemic.
Ideal for employees
According to a recent study by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, more than half of companies plan to make work-from-home accommodations permanent for some or allow employees to work remotely until they feel safe enough to return. Those new to remote work have seen some immediate perks, including savings due to reduced costs for travel, parking and food.
However, the comforts of home are not always ideal. Many people are realizing they lack the space for creative work and are running into issues with work-life balance with little to no separation between home and the office. In addition, working parents are juggling child care or schooling with conference calls under one roof, which can inhibit productivity for everyone involved.
As remote work becomes more acceptable among workplaces, employees, contract workers, jobseekers and freelancers will pursue alternative, affordable and socially distant coworking spaces that suit their needs far better than kitchen tables. A change of scenery that provides space for safe collaboration, yet is balanced with options for quiet, more focused work, will give everyone a productive boost once stay-in-place restrictions begin to ease.
Great for employers
The future of office space is unknown. However, with employees working from home for extended periods, companies must not expect a full office upon returning to the workplace.
At first, we’ll see workers begin to return in waves, and many will adjust their hours to reduce density at any given time. Eventually, we’ll see companies reduce their physical space as well. According to a recent CoreNet Global survey, 69% of corporate real estate professionals said their company will take up less real estate after spending time working from home. As office space begins to contract, those employees will seek options outside of their home to work — and coworking will be there to offer a welcome alternative.
Companies that embrace this shift will come out on top. Recruitment and retention are key, with millennials ranking flexibility as one of their most important workplace benefits.
According to research and consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics, remote work is also proven to lead to increased productivity, diversity, lower real estate costs, reduced absenteeism and better disaster preparedness in the wake of potential future pandemics.
As social distancing measures loosen and more people are enabled to remain and work in our community, we’ll see Baltimore businesses thrive as dollars stay local, supporting nearby restaurants, dry cleaners and services. Down the line, coworking environments will help individuals connect and build community by hosting local networking opportunities and training programs. And having fewer commuters and traffic throughout the region will reduce our carbon footprint — a welcome change as Baltimore City’s ozone received an F grading in the American Lung Association's 2020 State of the Air Report.
A 2016 Gallup survey found that even before the pandemic hit, 43% of workers worked remotely with some frequency. As that proportion is set to increase, so will people’s desire to have personal interaction in a safe, collaborative environment.
Brandon Chasen is the founder and CEO of Chasen Companies and owner of Vision, a coworking space in Federal Hill.