We interviewed Ramona Iacob, Country Manager Romania for IWG Plc, who has a vast experience in the coworking industry, to find out how COVID 19 pandemic could reshape the industry, and what are the trends to follow in the coming months.
Ramona, I would like to start our interview by asking you: what is an inspirational workspace to you, how does it look, taking into consideration also the changes we’ve witnessed in the last year?
It is one year now since all pandemic started and during this year we have faced a massive change in our working style as many of us were all of the sudden forced to just stop and work from their homes.
Now that we have gained a bit of experience, let’s say, we are all embracing more the flexibility in our ways of working, so I believe that the new workspace will be a more ‘’hybrid’’ one, our working style will be different.
This Hybrid working style allows companies to go for choice when setting the new working strategies to their employees. Now we see companies keeping a small part of the fixed office they have but also combining with a flexible product that allows their employee to work closer to their homes as well.
For sure the new workspaces will be more focused on health & safety, on social distancing , office spaces will be reshaped, rethink.
An inspirational workspace for me is the workspace that allows me to come in when I need to and work from where I need to, an workspace that offers variety and choice and also pays attention to my needs, my health and safety and, why not, wellbeing.
What kind of members does IWG Plc space attract and how do you attract them?
Our prospects are from all areas of business: from start ups, small or medium companies to corporate companies. Basically every need can find a solution with IWG. It is amazing how the flexible working solutions we have proposed during these 30 years of existence, have helped small companies to grow and how we can help many businesses enter the market and evolve from a simple virtual office, let’s say, to large surfaces or even move further in their conventional spaces.
We attract business offering a range of products and solutions that help companies enter markets. Grow in the markets, be cost efficient , have a risk free solution. We have dedicated sales support globally implemented working 24/7, we constantly do researches on how people prefer to work and what could be the needs, so we can develop new products, improve existing ones etc.
As more people are infected with the new coronavirus, unfortunately no shared spaces are free from the potential of contamination. To keep open the coworking spaces, there are certain actions operators can take to ensure the safety of members. Are coworking spaces safe? What have you done to combat the spread of coronavirus in IWG Plc spaces, to ensure the safety of members and employees?
We are implementing hygiene and physical distancing measures across all our locations, as recommended by local governments and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
We have increased the frequency of cleaning during the day, focusing on high touchpoint areas, surface and workspace cleaning to meet global health and safety regulations.
We have taken the principles of physical distancing and adapted them for the workplace. This includes how people move around our centers, with clear information, signage and protocols in place to ensure minimal person-to-person contact. Our private offices, meeting rooms, business clubs, etc. are now implementing all measures needed, in order to create a safe place to work.
Yes, coworking spaces are safe, for both customers and employees. Our business was all the time opened during this 1 year of crisis, and by implementing all the right measures we have succeeded to keep a very safe environment .
The coworking industry is getting increasingly competitive. Even in the times of the pandemic, the number of coworking spaces worldwide kept growing, reaching more than 2.5 million. Beyond the physical workspace, you provide to the members a series of services, would you consider these the main reasons why people choose you, or there are any other reasons why is better to use coworking spaces VS home facilities?
Working only from home cannot be a long term option. It is against our human nature, we need social life. Being all the time at home we lose the balance between our personal and professional life, and this may cause major damages on long term. We already see companies worried about their people productivity, we see people personally being affected.
I believe that world will change and start looking into a hybrid model of working that will become the new normal. This hybrid model gives choice, gives flexibility, and by having this choice at hand, both employee and employer will benefit. It will help companies to attract better talents, increase people productivity, ensure employee retention, and will allow employees to create a better life-work balance, reduce commuting hours etc.
In response to the coronavirus, it’s expected that businesses will shift away from traditional office spaces, from different reasons (space, rent, services etc). Would this be an opportunity for coworking space, and how spaces will adopt alternative business models?
The shift has already started, in my opinion, many years ago. It is true that some countries are on higher speed, comparing to others. But, more than ever, we will see now businesses looking first into flexible options (as risk is close to 0), and than will consider taking large conventional surfaces and commit for long terms, as it used to be.
It is now important how you adapt better your product to the new customer needs, because needs are constantly changing; how fast and well you can provide a custom made proposition to your clients. It is also important to continue investing in digitalization, infrastructures and develop new features that allow you to have a fast response, a better option, important is to continue developing your network as well.
IWG is a provider of choice after all, and being present globally in more than 110 countries, helps us understand the trend, the need. It helps us in working hard to improve every day and try to deliver a great day at work for both our people and our customers.
Instead of just occupying a small space in a large building, companies will change their perspectives, and buildings, in general, will have to be more flexible to lease and have a “coworking character” designed into it. Is IWG investing in such locations or is targeting, also, other unconventional spaces, like malls, for example?
IWG is already present in malls, hotels, university campuses in other countries, and yes, we are constantly looking into developing our solutions in all areas, paying attention to the workers needs and requests, to better understand what people wants.
We have minimum 2 surveys per year that allows us measure all about habits of work, needs for companies ad their employees, so we can take all the info further and think through new products, rethink our workspace as well etc. I believe that every large building should consider having a partner for flexible solutions.
In your opinion, coronavirus outbreak could force a permanent work-from-home movement? What are the consequences of COVID-19 crisis for coworking industry?
Coronavirus outbreak will force a new working strategy (it is already happening). Will force companies to rethink their current working spaces, rethink their budgets for such spaces, and will force companies to pay much more attention to employees health and safety, and to wellbeing overall.
Coworking industry, like all other industries, have been of course impacted by work from home forced movement, but as said also last year, we must think faster, smarter and not letting the wheels stop. We must adapt to this global change, and improve in the same time.
ABOUT IWG (IWG International Workplace Group)
IWG believes that business success is underpinned by the effectiveness and happiness of its people. So, they made it their mission to help millions of people have a great day at work – every day.
They do this by giving people and businesses access to a world leading commercial real estate platform; drawing on a 30-year track record of delivering the best real estate solution for businesses; in every country, city, town, village and transport hub worldwide. It’s a risk-free option, with zero balance sheet impact, and a great solution for people as its designed with productivity in mind. IWG’s real estate solutions are simple to use, with a full suite of business support services to enable people to focus on their core business and enjoy a great day at work.
IWG offers an unrivalled choice of workspaces through its operating companies; Regus, Spaces, HQ, Signature by Regus and No18 – each designed to serve the unique needs of businesses of every size being present with over 3200 locations in more than 110 countries worldwide.