For decades, businesses faced a genuine challenge with office space. Growing companies needed enough office space to expand into as they added headcount to support growth. Office prices were constantly rising, and companies faced challenges in finding the kind of space that was suitable for them.
However, the pandemic changed all of that. Suddenly, entrepreneurs found staff working from home and focused on virtual, rather than in-person, collaboration. Remote or hybrid work is now the norm, and a vast majority do not anticipate a full-time return to the office. Ever.
So, is the original concept of the office dead—or just evolving? Even those who believe that the majority of employees working full-time in an office is a thing of the past generally concede that a hybrid work schedule represents the future of work.
The remote working challenge
While a hybrid schedule is generally preferred by staff and has many benefits for businesses, the fact that more people are working remotely than ever before creates a challenge. Companies with a large amount of office space and a hybrid workforce may now potentially have too much space.
Such companies are well-positioned to perform a classic entrepreneurial pivot: Why not consider the option of transforming your traditional workspace into something more akin to a co-working space?
For example, if you have office space for 60 people, but you only typically have 20 staff in at a time, you have space that could be repurposed. Creating a new co-working area within your office set-up is especially useful for companies on long-term leases or for those that own their building or property.
Adapting is key. Reconfiguring your current office space into a modern co-working space allows you to retain your office space but make more efficient use of it. Your co-working space also becomes more attractive to employees adapting to a new culture of hybrid work.
Make sure it is right for your team
As you consider whether to adapt your office into a co-working space, think carefully about whether the strategy is right for your team. Yes, it may be financially better for the company, but if it proves too disruptive or simply isn’t the right fit for the company, it can end up costing money in the long term.
Co-working space arrangements are well-proven as advantageous to start-ups. In addition to cost savings, co-working is the modern way, and for start-ups, a co-working space encourages skills and key relationships to thrive.
It is a best practice to discuss the possibility with your staff and identify where challenges could occur.
Establish common and company areas
It will likely remain the case that the majority of your office space will be populated by your staff members. It is critical to set rules around which areas are common areas, where everyone including co-working space users can go, and other areas that are strictly for company staff. This might be important in terms of company data privacy, for example.
The process may involve rethinking the office layout. For example, you may want to designate a lunch room and meeting rooms that everyone can use. Communication is key in determining and conveying these boundaries to both staff and co-working space users.
Create a new desk plan
If you plan to transition to a co-working space, you will almost certainly need to re-think your desk plan. It may make sense to ensure that those working in teams are able to sit close to each other—especially if other parts of the office will be occupied by those who don’t work for the company. Your individual space layout will determine how you can best use your space to set up efficient work areas that also respect the privacy of desk workers nearby.
Market your co-working space properly
Once you have adapted your office set-up, it’s time to market your co-working space. Your redesigned hybrid space is now something you can actively market to attract future talent, highlighting that you are an innovative company that does not shy away from progressive workplace strategies.
However, adapting your office (particularly if you are a start-up) will only be a financially successful move if you can make sure to have the space as filled as possible, and you can only do this by showing it off in the best possible light.
Invest in high-quality photography to showcase the reconfigured space, which will allow potential clients to see that you have an enticing co-working space.
It is also important to create an attractive website focused on the co-working space and market it on social media and among local businesses. You can even host events in your new coworking space to showcase its appeal to potential clients.
If your co-working space pivot succeeds, it may become a bustling hub that attracts new ideas, energy, enthusiasm—and possibly future employees for your own company—in what was once unused space!
Contributed by Annie Button, an established business writer based in the UK who focuses on business growth and development, branding, digital marketing and HR trends to help businesses thrive.