Co-working and flexible workspace providers saw business quickly dwindle as the COVID-19 pandemic struck last spring and the shift to remote work began. These businesses sublet space on short-term contracts, which allowed tenants to leave quickly as employees moved to working from home.
However, investors and analysts are turning bullish that co-working and flexible office providers such as WeWork and IWG could soon see a boom in business as workers return to offices.
Still, there’s a lot of catching up to do. WeWork’s occupancy rate globally plunged to 47% at the end of 2020. It lost $3.2 billion last year, The Wall Street Journal reports. Before the pandemic, co-working spaces were the fastest-growing type of office space in commercial real estate, according to JLL. But the pandemic struck the sector particularly hard.
On the other hand, traditional property service providers have been more protected in the pandemic since their tenants sign long-term leases. Even as offices have remained mostly empty, building owners could still collect rent.
But moving forward, property providers may be more drawn to shorter-term leases. As such, investors are seeing signs that co-working spaces could hold a special attraction to offices moving forward.
Flexible leases could grow from less than 5% of the market today to as much as 30% by 2030, the real estate firm JLL forecasts.
Co-working spaces could grow as an option as companies may be reluctant to sign a 10-year lease until they better understand what the future of work will look like and how employees will divide their time between home and office. “Some may turn to looser office arrangements longer term, accelerating a trend already building before the pandemic,” says reporter Carol Ryan for The Wall Street Journal.
Companies that press forward with a remote office likely will still find they need a space to meet in-person at times. Also, some offices may decide on a hybrid workweek approach—splitting time between the office and home—which could also cause companies to look at flexible office space as an option.
“Co-working spaces have the potential to provide vital business services to support the remote workforce closer to where they are, especially as residual anxieties linger over taking public transit,” Brent Capron, design director of interiors at architecture firm Perkins and Will’s New York studio, told CNBC in an article on co-working spaces.
Courtesy Realtor Magazine
Source: "Flexible Offices Will Be Crowded After COVID-19," The Wall Street Journal (March 23, 2021) and "How Co-Working Spaces Could Succeed in the Post-Pandemic World," CNBC (Jan 12, 2021)