The Pandemic’s Lasting Impact on the Future of Coworking

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  • Coworking spaces operate using dynamic capabilities, or the ability to transform uncertainties into community-driven beneficial outcomes.  
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, coworking spaces adapted to rebuild communities and workspaces under vastly new, and logistically complicated, circumstances.  
  • Post-pandemic coworking will involve greater dynamic capabilities because of COVID’s impact on the industry, including more hybrid ways of working and a more flexible definition of the word “space.”  

According to research published in Service Business in 2022, “dynamic capabilities” are central to coworking operations. 

Dynamic capabilities are the ability to sense threats and seize opportunities for business or creative operations.  

Coworking spaces are dynamic environments because knowledge workers from all walks of life come together to work alongside each other and with others.  Ideas and issues of unpredictable sorts and magnitudes are constantly arising in coworking spaces.  

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COVID-19 and how coworking spaces modified themselves during the pandemic has, and will continue to, directly impact their dynamic capabilities in the future. It’s already clear that coworking is now considerably different from pre-COVID coworking.  

How coworking spaces reacted to COVID-19  

Service Business researchers studied how coworking spaces reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic to understand how these reactions will impact the future of the coworking industry.  

To see what dynamic capabilities will be like in the future, we need to see what they are like during rare and impactful times of change, such as global pandemics. 

During the pandemic, the coworking industry learned that community input and feedback were indispensable for proper coworking space management operations.  

Community input was particularly helpful in generating alternate uses of coworking spaces and online substitutes for physical spaces.   

During the pandemic the coworking industry shifted more dramatically to a community-centric mindset, taking advantage of community feedback to create tools to effectively manage events. 

Having a close reciprocal relationship between management and community proved wise for management teams to give society and staff members a more significant say in coworking operations.  

When massive changes occur, everyone should work together in good faith to help coworking spaces adapt — not just managers, but communities, too. 

The future of coworking beyond the pandemic 

As Service Business researchers point out, involving community members “in all the transformative steps during the pandemic” led to significant customer loyalty and engagement.   

The close reciprocal relationship between coworking communities and managers will surely continue in the future of coworking given these benefits. Much like it was during the pandemic, input presented by the coworking communities will be tried and then used if it proves successful.  

That’s all it really means to develop dynamic capabilities — it is fundamentally the ability to adapt effectively to change.  

So what do these dynamic capabilities look like in practice? 

The dynamic capabilities of the coworking industry  

One of the outcomes of the recent shifts in operations is that hybrid spaces will become far more common in the coworking space in the future.  

This is primarily because the definition of “space” has been expanded to include digital spaces and other alternative spaces used in physical events — like virtual reality.  

According to Service Business, the two primary dynamic capabilities for the coworking industry are (1) strong community and (2) hybrid modalities. 

In this context, strong community dynamics involve sharing resources and actively participating in processes that occur when coworking spaces make generalized changes in the face of the future.  

Operators can use services such as SurveyMonkey to get data from coworking members to make decisions based on current events and their effects on the coworking market.  

Hybrid modalities and virtual and augmented reality integration will also be used in future coworking spaces.

Most scientists believe COVID was a dress rehearsal for future pandemics, so remote tools for work will always be one of coworking space’s adaptive features.  

Other non-pathogen-related events are likely to also require hybrid adaptation in the future, too.

Climate change, for example, has already made some regions less inhabitable, displacing more and more people. California wildfires are an excellent example of this, as the fires have led some Californians to move out of state without necessarily leaving their job because remote options allow that flexibility.   

As the global market becomes more interconnected, coworking spaces can become international hubs for communication, networking, and sharing resources for business growth. 

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