By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
The Coronavirus pandemic has inadvertently spurned new innovations at different levels, but one of the most remarkable developments arising from the virus and the attempt to combat it is the way peoples across cultures are changing lifestyles, including work ethics.
Over the past decade, but more importantly, in the last one year, co-working spaces have fulfilled the needs of different businesses. Co-working space is a coinage used to describe neutral spaces where people go to work on independent projects without depending on one another.
” In this type of place, co-workers may not know each other before, and are not necessarily working for the same company, what they share are facilities in the space”, said Dr. Olufemi Omoyele, director of management services, Redeemers University, in his chat with this newspaper.
He says co-working space is the new phenomenon, “and is fast catching on in our culture.” So dissimilar from a typical office, the people in a co-working space may not be working for the same company or enterprise, and they may not even know one another prior to meeting in the work environment.
Why choose a serviced office?
Hassle-free set-up in the space of your choosing is the best advantage of co-working space. Ordinarily, co-working spaces are easy offices that can connect one like minds. They are office spaces that provide a wide range of facilities. With the Internet and utilities already setup and countless configurations available, there is a workspace out there ready for one to move in and make it your own.
We know from experience that traditional leases don’t work for everyone. Easy Offices allows one to browse from all available office suites, whether one needs long-term stability, rolling contracts or short-term convenience. It’s quick, easy and budget savvy.
There’s also simple pricing for rental fees, with utilities, typically included and provisions for a staffed reception. This way, one only have one monthly bill to worry about, so one can focus on what’s important.
From networking and Internet connectivity to cost efficiency and reduction in overhead cost, co-working space has served as an important option in place of traditional workspaces and working from home.
Last year offered a debilitating blow to the new phenomenon as the pandemic posed one of the greatest challenges the co-working market has faced.
The coronavirus crisis and lockdowns have resulted in many co-working spaces leasing their spaces entirely or for some, shutting down for a while.
Most of the owners of co-working spaces in Lagos rent their spaces and pay yearly, and then offer short term leases to startups and individuals. So, the disadvantageous business models Nigerian co-working spaces operate make them a ticking bomb waiting to go off.
Adesanya Atoyebi, founder of WorkEasy, a co-working space in Ikeja , Lagos told BusinessHallmark that before the advent of pandemic business was good and thriving, but stated that the Coronavirus brought a downturn to the business.
We lost over 60% of our clients during the pandemic. Though, business is gradually returning”, he said.
Exploring new business models
In Nigeria, Omoyele says co-working spaces are attaining a certain degree of normalcy. But they’re not there just yet.
According to Google’s mobility report, Nigerians’ workplace activities (which include working from co-working spaces) have reduced by 22% compared to pre-lockdown numbers. In the FCT and Lagos, the numbers are at 25% and 30%.
Similarly, residential activities (which include work-from-home) have increased by 12%.
Who can use the co-working spaces?
Just anybody engaged in one form of work or the other can use co-working space from freelancers to an influencer; digital personnel, programmer, writer, or a person who engages in online trading, there is a high possibility that one will meet people who are working on similar projects in a co-working environment.
It is possible that one might be stuck with no idea on what to do next, but within a co-working environment, one will always find people who can offer one ideas on how to go around one’s problems or challenge.
Omoyele says most co-working spaces are low-cost, therefore, “small businesses or startups can leverage them to grow and cut overhead costs such as rent, utility bills, and furnishing cost. It’s no wonder that small businesses now make up the majority of the occupants of co-working spaces”, he said.
Research showed that not only small businesses but also big enterprises also use co-working spaces to handle their workspace requirements.
Managing office requirements can be cumbersome when an enterprise has a thousand employees from different locations of the world. These organisations can also leverage co-working spaces for their employees to save cost.
Benefits of working in co-working spaces
Co-working spaces bring two or more people in contact with a network of professionals and this , experts have said help lessen the burden associated with the isolation of working from home.
Another advantage often talked about is flexibility. Instead of signing a long-term lease, one can easily get flexible deals with co-working spaces. It is great for a startup with meagre budgets. Whether you’re a writer looking for a drop-in space, or an established team seeking a dedicated desk or private office, co-working solutions allow you to pay for only the space you need.
Another benefit of co-working spaces is the facility to connect with a different calibre of people from different professions and different environments. People you may otherwise have never met. Also experts talk about the motivation derived from working in a co-working space which they describe as being huge.
“The motivation of working in the midst of professionals can be huge”, says Omoyele. “Being in an environment full of knowledgeable people can help to motivate you to work harder and smarter”, Ambrose Omokordion Chief Research Officer at Investa told this newspaper.
In a co-working environment, the opportunity to network with people who can either become one’s potential clients or give one good referrals that can grow one’s business and profits is always there.
Co-working spaces are often designed to have expansive indoor lounges where you can relax, and staircases to encourage regular locomotive movements that serve as a form of exercise to keep you healthy.
Co-working spaces provide one with the opportunity to structure one’s day, providing a place to go every workday and leave once the work is done. There are quite a number of tech hubs in Lagos offering co-working spaces and incubators.
According to a Forbes report, Africa has over 643 hubs across the continent. These hubs have spearheaded the launching of hundreds of start-ups and have a lot of potential in terms of facilitating growth across the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Tech hubs offer a range of services from incubators and accelerators to co-working sites.
According to Omokordion, there are many lessons to learn from the pandemic that is still raging, though less threatening unlike a year ago. In his view, companies will begin to think of other revenue generation models aside from renting physical spaces. Also, companies are noticing that they can work remotely and still be productive. He believes that to an extent this will benefit co-working spaces.
Companies are beginning to look into splitting their teams and having few people work from a co-working space rather than having a traditional office with all the overhead costs associated with it.
The use of co-working spaces in Nigeria has gained popularity and has been on the increase in the last three years; serving as an alternative to the regular traditional office spaces. There is hardly a state in Nigeria where you cannot find a co-workspace; although some states have more co-working spaces than others; Lagos has the highest recorded number of co-working spaces in Nigeria.
Every year, a dozen or more co-workspaces are established around the state. At first, it was just an Island trend with spaces like; Venia Business hub, Capital Square and Workstation. The trend later gained entry into the mainland and then more spaces like; Wennovation hub, CChub, Leadspace and Musterpoint were built.
There are also a good number of states experiencing a down-pour of co-working spaces in the country. The capital city of the country, Abuja has also adopted this trend. It houses a good number of hubs, a few are; Ventures Park and The Box Office Hub.
The major reasons why Nigerians have adopted the use of co-working space is because of its affordability. Since businesses and companies tend to congregate around cities or areas closest to their market, there has been an increase in rent rates in those cities.
Landlords charge ridiculously high amounts of money as rent yearly. In locations like Wuse II in Abuja and Victoria Island in Lagos, N60,000-100,000 is charged per-square meter annually.