Stella Dominguez used to run an open-concept coworking space on Laurens Road, but a few years ago she decided to divide the space into two long-term tenant office spaces.
Instead of an open conference room and meeting areas people could pay to rent by the hour, the space is now occupied full-time by a hair salon and a property manager. Dominguez said she’s glad she made the decision.
“There are so many shared workplace spaces in Greenville, forget about it,” she said. “Why would you pay for something the size of a shower space when you could work from home? People aren’t thinking of going back the way they were, I don’t think.”
Dominguez’ opinion is hardly uncommon, but it’s also not a universal consensus.
When it comes to how coworking spaces have been faring in the era of COVID-19, there are two schools of thought, according to Taylor Poston, community manager for the Greenville-based coworking space Venture X.
On one hand, Poston agrees there are those who might assume coworking spaces are in rough shape, doomed by a business model that is incompatible with the moment. In the age of social distancing and crowd-wariness, how could a shared space survive?
And yet, though it may sound counterintuitive to some, Poston said coworking spaces like Venture X are perfectly primed to meet the needs of the moment.
“For us, it’s been a great thing,” Poston said. “We’ve actually picked up a lot more people due to everyone just going stir crazy at home, with those people working remote now wanting that flexibility to get out of the house.”
Consider the changing workplace dynamic, said Shannon Willbanks, co-founder of the shared workspace Endeavor, which operates out of the ONE Building in downtown Greenville. Willbanks said although their company took a hit at the start of the pandemic and saw a “really quiet April and May,” there has been a gradual and consistent uptick in recent months as the space has adapted its sanitary, health and safety guidelines.
“We’ve since had companies and individuals come to us in the last couple of months who never would’ve thought of a coworking space,” Willbanks said.
From individuals looking to get out of the house to companies with upcoming lease agreements realizing they don’t need as much space as previously thought, the flexibility of a shared workspace has made them an appealing prospect for businesses reassessing their physical needs.
A report released in August by the commercial real estate analysis firm Cushman & Wakefield backed up that assessment. Although the report noted that coworking spaces’ major draw, their social factor, was a hindrance during a health crisis, the ensuing paradigm shift in the coming months and years will likely benefit the industry.
“A total workplace ecosystem emphasizing choice may eventually result in more coworking demand, increasing enterprise users’ long-term value for operators,” the report concluded. “Coworking is here to stay.”