Embracing Coworking Spaces: A Covid-19 Survival Strategy

In times of war, staying alive is the ultimate goal and just as Covid19 has brought so many uncertainties, companies all over the world are now more focused on survival strategies as the pandemic rages on. The uniqueness of this new era is that it leaves no option but to align and adapt, therefore prompting businesses to properly analyze their decisions. Questions around employee productivity and resource allocation have dominated the global business landscape, leading to budget cuts and job losses. At the last count, Airbnb and Uber have laid-off about 5,000 of their employees.

The alarming fact that 90% of the startups launched across the world fail within five years creates the need to mitigate this failure rate by creating an environment conditioned enough for success. Coworking is one of the segments within the domains of the entrepreneurship ecosystem, which provides much-needed support for entrepreneurs. While coworking as a term was coined by Brad Neuberg a Silicon Valley Programmer in 2005, the concept of communal and collaborative work environment has been around for ages.

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In Nigeria, a noticeable trend is the average business owner rushing to rent a big workspace, and hiring staff long before validating their business model, and when the cookie crumbles, the “Nigerian system” takes all the blame – lack of electricity, little access to credit, high bureaucracies in government, poor business environment and so on. While these are valid factors that contribute to business failure, operating a business anywhere in the world is a tough job and not for the faint-hearted.  However, by looking inwards, there are various ways to weather the storm.

The coworking space business model is hinged on allowing entrepreneurs to study, test, and master their market in a conducive environment, cost-effective, and professional way. Long-term office rent is absorbed and evenly distributed across various startups and SMEs. Common facilities like business support, front desk, office assistants, internet connectivity, security, furniture and fixtures, air conditioning system, and power supply are all shared by all businesses co-located in a centre. Payments range from daily to annually. Most importantly, the fact that the rental laws in Nigeria do not support flexible payment plans makes coworking spaces a viable alternative to business sustainability. Beyond the assurance of infrastructure, coworking spaces also create platforms where knowledge, information, and valuable resources can be shared openly amongst members of its community.

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While not all types of companies can easily embrace alternative work styles, most tech companies, freelancers, and professional service providers have a huge advantage. These include the ability to decentralize their team to drastically reduce commute time, working more as a projectized team for efficiency, saving on utilities, reducing office space rent, avoiding long-term contracts, and eliminating redundant human resources.

Notable is the fact that access to core infrastructure (electricity and internet) has made it easier for workers in developed countries to switch to remote work independent of organized coworking spaces. However, In Nigeria where basic amenities are still a luxury, coworking spaces serve as a sustainable model to support our new normal.

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