With our move from working from home (WFH) back to the workplace, companies are shifting the way they work. This includes flexible workspace solutions, and the reintroduction of the coworking space.
Why are coworking spaces gaining popularity in this time of crisis? With businesses considering transitional WFH schedules, downsizing, and looking into best methods for boosting employee health and wellbeing, coworking spaces like The Cluster are working to solve these post-COVID problems.
Coworking spaces offer the flexibility traditional offices and workspaces are unable to accommodate, especially during this time of financial crisis. As we have now passed the over one year mark since the beginning of COVID, many property leases are coming to an end, causing time for revaluation of company spending and costs. With the uncertainty wrought on by the pandemic as well as the potential of employees continuing WFH, and coming into the office only part time, businesses are hesitant to renew their traditional leases. Even with the resumption of normal office hours, there is still something lacking: community. Even at our refilled, busy workspaces, it’s hard to revive a sense of community after a hardly recharging year of WFH.
This is where coworking spaces come in. Through offering a unique sense of community, and a network of dynamic and innovative individuals, at a professional and fully equipped workspace environment, we are able to connect with people again. After a year of fatigue, isolation, and WFH, the need to build up our communities is now more felt than ever. Going back to a simple office, budgets squeezed tight after a year of rental fees paid to hold an empty space, with the colleagues we were struggling alongside all of COVID, is still better than WFH, but lacks the creative and collaborative environment that a coworking space offers. Not to mention, the custom-made designs, beautiful views, and full suite of executive services, networking events, and additional benefits that have now become the standard for coworking spaces.
After a year of exhausting Zoom calls, virtual meetings, and online work, how can we best motivate ourselves and re-create a lively and thriving company energy? What are The Cluster’s top tips for safely and easily transitioning back to business? What is the best way to support and ensure the growth of our businesses so that we can still bloom from this almost bio-apocalypse?
1. Rebuilding Our Community
The importance of in-person communication
It’s ‘safe’ to say that we are more than a little worn out, and COVID is not going anywhere yet. How do we ensure that we are taking care of ourselves and our businesses? How do we maintain our client-base if we ourselves are burnt out from a year of WFH? The solution: establish a support system, for both your co-workers and your clients.
In person communication is what we are all longing to re-establish, this is what we have been missing for the year- the ability to connect. We cannot wait to get back to working and collaborating together, but how do we ensure we are being COVID-safe? In person meetings are the best for both fostering a strong team and maintaining long-lasting client relationships.
Good communication and clearly defining the comfort zones of our employees and clients will allow for safe and enduring connections. Establish clear lines of communication to ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of safety measures put in place, as well as resources of support available. A well-established support system is a long-lasting solution to a potentially long-drawn out pandemic.
Coworking spaces allow for many opportunities to network and reestablish these connections, hosting frequent events to boost engagement and develop a strong community for their members. The Cluster, for example, holds weekly member lunches and Friday happy hours, the perfect way to kickstart office bonding and team spirit. Catching a quick chat or snack at The Kitchen- all free benefits provided to all members- is an additional benefit to entice employees away from WFH and back to re-engaging with their community.
2. Strengthen Your Business
Make room for growth
Along with supporting our colleagues, and our clients, our workplaces will also need support. Now that COVID has become the new normal, we are no longer scrambling to find short term solutions for long term problems. We now have the time, and space, and with the little lull our economy is in, the perfect time to be building back the foundations of our businesses. Make sure that there are correct systems in place, so not only in terms of lines of communication but operations, workflow, as well as strong and detailed plans for growth projections.
As our economies recover, being as prepared as possible will guarantee that our businesses are taking the right steps towards growth, in spite of the ongoing pandemic. What precautions can be put in place to ensure we don’t fall under the same trap our competitors might face?
3. Embrace Change
Flexibility strengthens durability
It’s difficult to predict how long COVID will last for. But this is no reason for concern for our businesses, only the ultimate tool to think ahead, prepare, and build your resilience.
Along with this comes a need for flexibility. COVID may have pushed and reshaped businesses online, but how can we make sure that some of these tools are already in place so that if the [hopefully evitable] second global pandemic strikes, our businesses are prepared and ready, our employees and clients already provided with the appropriate methods of communication to ensure loyalty and efficient workflow.
In conclusion, we must learn to embrace change, be flexible, and build resilience. This is easier said than done, but over a year into our first global pandemic, businesses are shifting and changing everyday. How are we going to lead these changes and be the first to think ahead of new challenges?
Since Homo Sapiens gathered around fires with tales of successful hunts, storytelling has been the driving force behind human culture and creativity. It’s evolutionarily entangled into our DNA to enjoy legends, fairy tales and creation myths as a way to better understand what it means to be alive. So some pretty strong stuff!
It’s no surprise then that many companies have used this primordial pull to entice people to their product, weaving stories to market themselves and give their audience an emotional connection to the brand. Whether that be Nescafe essentially creating a soap opera of two neighbours falling in love over their Gold blend, or Manchester United saving the world from an alien onslaught through battles on the soccer pitch, storytelling is undoubtedly a powerful tool that can work for any business.
How do you tell a good story though? As the gruesome saying goes, ‘there are many ways to skin a cat’, but to add my own equally gruesome thought, they all have the same skeleton. What do I mean by this? Well, if you follow the teachings of Joseph Campbell and his theory of the Monomyth, you’ll know where I’m coming from.
For the uninitiated, Campbell outlined what he argued is the common template of nearly every myth ever created, regardless of origin. After refining the idea over several books (starting with, The Hero with a Thousand Faces in 1949) Campbell established the narrative pattern, The Hero’s Journey. Ever since, this guide has been used by writers across all mediums, most famously being a massive influence on the structure for Star Wars. Since Disney has made sure we’re all very familiar with that tale, let’s use Luke’s journey as our own framework of how we can utilize and tell stories.
In his original book, Campbell outlines 17 different points all stories hit, but as I’ve got a limited amount of your attention, I’ll only focus on 3.
- THE CALL TO ADVENTURE!
All journeys have a beginning, and in the beginning our hero is usually stuck in a world of banality and security. Luke’s life on Tatooine is dull (I mean his de facto parents farm moisture for peats sake), so when he accidentally triggers R2-D2’s holographic message from some distant princess, it’s the first narrative thread that unravels the whole cosmic story.
Now for marketing translation: your client’s world pre your product/service is Tatooine. It’s safe, known and uninteresting, but they may be happy there. Ignorance is bliss as Johnny Ramone likes to remind us, so we need to offer them a call to action, a chance to adventure in new terrain. More often than not, it’s the advertisement itself that is the call to action. Be it a TV ad portraying how much better and more smile-soaked life is when you drink coke, or a billboard simply questioning if you’ve “got milk?” You’re asking the potential client to reconsider some aspect of their lives.
If the goal is to create a story around your product rather than straight selling, then the main character (effectively a client avatar) needs to exist in a world they’d be happy to escape. For example, the unnamed character in this HomePod ad by legendary director, Spike Jonze, starts in a world of grey crowds and silence. Not a smile to be found until the HomePod plays music, unlocking our protagonist’s ability to transform her surroundings!
From here, the call can be refused or answered. Luke initially refuses to join the rebels with Obi-Wan until pushed by the death of his aunt and uncle, unlike the HomePod character who immediately embraces her new reality. Once committed though, they’ll need guidance and aid to prepare for the trials ahead.
- SUPERNATURAL AID/CROSSING THE THRESHOLD
It’s at this point in a story that the tools currently available to the character aren’t enough. Yes, Luke could bullseye womp rats, but that doesn’t mean he could defeat the emperor! He needs a mentor – in mythology often supernatural – to offer up the skills required. Enter Obi-Wan, speaking of some ancient religion and mystical power called the Force.
This is the role you as a company play, the giver of wisdom or the platform that initiates change allowing the hero (client) to cross the threshold from the known into the unknown. To quote Campbell:
“The adventure is always and everywhere a passage beyond the veil of the known into the unknown; the powers that watch at the boundary are dangerous; to deal with them is risky; yet for anyone with competence and courage the danger fades”
As a business, the client should gain that competence and courage from you. Either directly, or through a character that embodies your company, you need to show Luke the way the of the force!
It doesn’t need to be such cosmic levels of course. Perhaps you’re a solar panel company and are creating a campaign where you interview happy clients to persuade those still relying on conventional sources. Even in that example, you as the company are the facilitator of this new life with cheaper bills and guilt free power, the ticket to crossing the threshold.
- THE ULTIMATE BOON/MASTER OF TWO WORLDS
We’re jumping many steps now to get to what is the achievement of the goal, the finding of the holy grail or the destruction of the Galactic Empire. All the trials and tribulations have led to this, and in many myths, it is a transcendent experience that leads to a life devoid of fear and doubt. When Luke watches his father throw the Emperor down that reactor shaft, so too is he seeing all the barriers of his life perish as well. He emerges from the whole experience a fully-fledged jedi, and master of the previously unknown world.
Most print advertising starts here, encapsulating that moment of glory and realization in a single frame. This could be a person laying in a hammock on a beach while sipping a cold corona, or happy family bonding over previously frozen chips, it’s an ending that only your company can provide and is the manifestation of your client’s fantasies.
However, if you’re wanting to tell a more detailed and complex story, this cannot easily be achieved. Conflict births tension and drama so don’t be afraid to put as many roadblocks in your character’s way as possible! Think of how many trials Odysseus faces before returning to Ithaca at the end of the Odyssey. I’ll save you some reading, it’s a lot! In the end though, they must reach this ultimate boon, or to tie up previous examples, the Gold Blend couple must finally get together, the aliens sent packing by Manchester United, and the Homepod girl rests on her regular couch smiling with her Apple device quietly recording every moment!
In the end, whether homo sapiens staring into the flames or millennials staring into screens, stories have been constantly proven to generate empathy and help us learn. Nothing can stir up emotions quite like a well told story, and nearly all purchases are decided by buyer’s emotions, so it’s easy to see why brands often utilize narratives to promote themselves.
Which leaves me with this one question for you dear reader, what’s the story of your company?
When choosing an office space, there is a lot to think about and many different options, usually boiling down to traditional longer term leases vs more flexible coworking arrangements. Traditional leases offer stability and customisation, whilst coworking offers super competitive pricing (when you factor in everything that goes into a traditional lease) and flexibility.
Here at The Cluster, Australia’s first professional coworking space, we get to speak to people regularly about their office and business needs and what would work best for their team. For them, it’s essential to understand if a turn-key workspace solution or a more traditional office lease (a total blank canvas) works best for their brand and team. There is a lot to consider, and here we highlight the key differences!
Many companies choose a traditional lease as they feel it can give their business the most professional and personalised aesthetic possible. A commercial office lease allows you the total autonomy to customise and operate exactly how you would like to. You can choose your operating hours, floorplan and carefully curate the first impression when visitors walk through the door. Whether you desire ridiculously enormous desks, a slippery slide between floors or a velvet-laden feature wall, the possibilities are endless & completely yours to decide.
Moving a large or established business to a coworking space sometimes comes with the worry that the business may lose a sense of brand identity. This however is not necessarily the case. Here at The Cluster, you will not find our branding anywhere, and this is very much on purpose; we want your clients to have the impression that this is your office, and only yours!
Coworking has also become immensely popular in recent years with large enterprises, including tech giants, Facebook and Microsoft. A global coworking provider recently reported that nearly 40% of their client base hails from enterprise companies. Business such as these have utilised the option to customise the private office exactly how they like, or completely take over an enterprise suite over an entire floor! This alone shows the magic of coworking and why more enterprise customers are turning to it for office solutions.
Today’s marketplace is a dynamic, fluid and competitive, meaning flexibility is on offer which may be important for companies who are unsure of growth or even market conditions.
A typical office rental in Melbourne’s CBD, (according to realcommercial.com.au), averages between $15,000 to $80,000 per annum depending on size and desired location While a traditional lease may appear to be significantly cheaper when compared to coworking, committing to a 5 or 10 year fixed term can be a huge financial risk. Lock-in contracts also offer little adaptability for a company, especially in times of financial turmoil and uncertainty. If your business doesn’t scale at the pace you predicted, you may end up paying for space you have no use for. On the other hand, if your business scales up more quickly than expected, you can end up starting the process all over again while trying to negotiate a release from your long-term contract.
One of co-working’s bestselling points is adaptability. If you’re a start-up or freelancer, workspace flexibility gives you the control of when and how you work. This ensures that you’re only paying for what you need & what you use. Even mammoth international enterprises are jumping on the coworking bandwagon, and not just to save a pretty penny! Whether they just need a short-term space to get a project team or even a more permanent arrangement, coworking offers all the wiggle room needed, without the enormous lock-in commitments. At The Cluster, rapidly growing teams such as Impact Traffic have outgrown a singular desk and now occupy a small army of them! The range of rental space available, from casual hot-desk areas to large private offices, means you have the freedom to hire the perfect space for your needs, with the luxury of changing your requirements with short notice periods.
With the impact of Covid on the economy, businesses and workers, many are now turning to coworking for everything that it offers, which seems fitting for a post-covid world. Employees now want more flexibility to work from home and the office, and business owners can see that the social aspect of coworking and flexibility will play an important role in the future.
DOLLAR DOLLAR BILLS
Traditional leases generally seem to be a lower cost option when compared to coworking, when comparing the base rents per square meter. However even with incentives from landlords, there is still the cost and headache of set up costs around fit outs, furniture, plus significantly higher legal expenses. These costs can set you back tens of thousands of dollars in initial set up on top of your base rent. On-going costs like a receptionist can cost a company $50,000 a year on average (as reported by indeed). In addition, electricity, water, internet, regular cleaning & maintenance staff, all add up. Once you factor these “other” costs in, your initial commitment has snowballed into a figure much larger than you were expecting – yikes!
Coworking’s best feature, by far, is its all-inclusive pricing. If you’re a start-up who only needs a desk one day a week, or an established organisation who needs room to grow, you get the most bang for your minimal buck. Depending on your package, co-working space can cost anywhere from $3,000 a year for a casual desk (with a lot more than a desk included in that price) to over $100,000 a year for a luxurious enterprise suite with a private kitchen, meeting rooms and all the bells and whistles you could imagine!
For example, here at The Cluster, having any sort of membership means the following are yours for the using: stunning, thoughtfully designed workspaces and meeting rooms over 3 floors, multiple receptionists, utilities, IT support, cleaning, amenities such as snacks and beverages, plus social & networking events such as breakfast clubs or Friday night drinks! These are all services that can quickly become costly when integrating them with a more traditional lease.
With all the fabulousness that goes with an all-inclusive office, do be careful and mindful when looking around at coworking spaces. Some spaces (usually the larger ones), have lots of add-ons and hidden costs, meaning that your monthly expectations of costs are not always met. It is important to check the fine print and understand that not all spaces are as inclusive as The Cluster when it comes to pricing. Make sure you are comparing apples with apples when making your decision!
Community is key to coworking and can work in your favor if you want it too. As the saying goes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Coworking can deliver enormous value with access to networking and social interactions, often resulting in business development opportunities or just great friendships.
Whilst a traditional lease can mean your team stays cohesive and close-knit, it leaves little room to organically expand and connect with businesses around you. It is certainly possible to arrange your own networking and social events but these will take up additional time & energy out of the day-to-day running of your business, so why not leave that to us!
An enormous benefit to coworking is the immediate ability to socialise, network and collaborate. If you’re an accounting freelancer and need some help with website development, chances are you can do some quid-pro-quo with another business in your space to share expertise and cut outsourcing costs. There is also instant access to a variety of events that are organised and run without you having to lift a finger or dip into the company budget. Anything can happen at these events……maybe you will run into an old colleague during the office’s Breakfast Club and reminisce over a coffee. Or maybe you will just come up with a wild and innovative business idea with a fellow coworker over some Friday night Furphys.
THINK ABOUT IT
When deciding what office space is best for your business, it is worth understanding the pros and cons of traditional leases vs coworking. If long term leases and digging into your pockets to pay for extra unknown costs doesn’t sound up your alley, then join the coworking revolution where the only thing you’ll be digging into is the 3pm snacks!
The pandemic has brought on a level of social isolation we have never experienced before, many lives have changed drastically in such a short amount of time. Some have gone months without seeing friends and loved ones which can bring on feelings of anxiety and depression. Right now, it’s especially important that we look out for each other and offer support where possible. As an employer, or even just a member of a team, there are several things you can do to help your staff and ensure they have the resources needed during this uncertain time.
Scheduling regular catch-ups and encouraging socialisation
When the team is split up and everyone is working from home, one of the most important things you should do as an employer is keep everyone feeling connected to one another and their roles. At The Cluster, socialising is not only one of the most important parts of our day but also something we all love to do! Not being able to spend time with each other and our members at Friday night drinks or just around the office has been extremely difficult, so together we’ve worked really hard on keeping The Cluster spirit alive via staff meetings, one-on-ones, virtual Friday night drinks and the Cluster Community discord channel. Staff meetings and individual catch-ups ensure everyone is still discussing work but we are also being encouraged to socialise with each other regularly about anything and everything! A rotating buddy system has been implemented where each week, we are assigned a different staff member to chat to each day. It’s been lovely keeping in contact with the team and discussing things other than work or the pandemic. Recently I was paired with Nathan who got engaged – hearing that wonderful news was like a breath of fresh air!
With your employees spending most of their time out of the office, you may be capable of allowing more flexible working hours. At The Cluster, we have been allocated a certain amount of hours per week with the option of using these however we like (within reason of course). We still need to ensure we are working hours that overlap with other staff members so we can communicate effectively and where possible, we need to be available for staff and one-on-one meetings throughout the week. Flexible working hours can be extremely beneficial for your employees mental health as it provides them with the opportunity to do the life admin tasks that they may not be able to do when coming into the office each day, such as visiting a doctor or other health professional, doing their groceries or even just taking a walk. Flexibility also allows your employees to adapt to their family situations too if needed, this is especially helpful for your staff with children or loved ones who require extra support.
Providing the team with structure
It’s so easy to fall out of your usual routine when you no longer need to commute into work each day but losing the structure of your week can have a seriously negative impact on your mental health. Everything is so uncertain right now that having a routine can feel like an anchor, keeping you steady. You may not know when you’ll be able to see your friends and family again but knowing you’ll wake up at 7:00am and eat lunch at 1:00pm each day gives you a form of stability. Having a routine has been proven to reduce stress levels, it takes away the pressure of needing to plan our day on the spot and can give us a sense of control that may currently be hard to grasp. As an employer, you should ensure your team has a weekly roster with breaks and catch ups included. Keep in touch with them each day and see to it that they have enough assigned tasks with the necessary resources to complete them.
Mental Health Resources
It’s okay to admit that you’re struggling with your mental health right now. Even if you’ve never experienced any issues previously, times are tough and a pandemic is sure to bring all sorts of unwanted emotions to surface. The most important thing anyone can do when they’re struggling is reach out for help. There’s some amazing information and support you can access online or via telephone including:
Head to Health
has an amazing page full of resources such as tips for maintaining good mental health, information for parents and how to access mental health services if needed. Click on the image above to check out what they offer.
The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services
This website is packed with helpful resources such as videos and articles containing professional advice, tips for staying calm, healthy positive and connected, how to have conversations about coronavirus with children and the elderly as well as a tonne of support contacts for when you need to talk to someone.