Coworking Spaces are Critical Infrastructure in the New Work Landscape
Work has shifted dramatically since the pandemic began more than a year ago. Our priorities and our caregiving responsibilities have also shifted in significant ways. Larger organizations are learning to manage distributed teams, with less need for the centralized corporate office. Some people have stopped commuting and have been working exclusively from home in order to stay safe, or to care for children and elders. And some of us have stopped working altogether as lockdowns persist and unemployment rates reach record levels in many regions around the world.
We are starting to see a wave of new remote and part-time workers, as well as the inevitable surge of new entrepreneurs and freelancers who may not necessarily be choosing self-employment, but rather doing whatever they can to survive in a crisis. These shifts create a significant demand for affordable, flexible work space, remote work technology, and unique regional business supports for all those navigating the new work landscape.
Over 2 major recessions now, we’ve witnessed how essential coworking communities have been in an economic recovery, in supporting workers and in rebuilding a diverse ecosystem of local entrepreneurs and small businesses. Yet coworking spaces often operate below the radar of economic development offices.
Elected officials have mandates to support local businesses, encourage job creation, increase productivity, reduce poverty, improve job security, retain local talent, expand accessibility initiatives, protect freelancers, improve health and wellbeing, and strengthen their local communities. But how many elected officials are working with existing coworking communities to fulfil these mandates? And how might this relationship change if coworking spaces were actually recognized as critical infrastructure for small businesses, independent and remote workers?
Independent coworking spaces already house and support millions of small businesses and freelancers around the world, and they are perfectly positioned to provide targeted local solutions. Coworking spaces are designed for professional, creative, and flexible use, and they already utilize the collaborative technology most of us now require as remote workers. Most importantly, they’ve already cultivated diverse and connected communities of local businesses and independent workers.
Coworking alliances represent thousands of small businesses in one region. Collectively, coworking space operators have the agency and the platform to create solutions directly for their members, such as the Coworking Health Insurance Plan (COHIP). A collaborative network of independent coworking spaces is an extremely valuable asset when building resilient communities and accelerating local economic recovery.
Coworking alliances are now well-positioned to engage meaningfully with local elected officials and economic development offices. It’s time for coworking spaces and alliances to be recognized for all they do to support local workers and businesses, as critical infrastructure in the new work landscape.