Co-working spaces have popped up in cities all over the world within the last decade, from large chains such as WeWork to independent locally-owned companies. Has the pandemic taken the steam out of the growth of these non-traditional workplaces in the U.S.?
A CivicScience survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults shows that co-working is still intact – and interest in the trend may be on the up-and-up. Currently, 3% of the Gen Pop rents / holds a membership at a co-working space, while 8% express interest in possibly joining one in the future.
That said, 6% – twice that of current renters – previously used to rent at a co-working space but no longer do. While co-working isn’t for everyone, seismic shifts in the labor force in the last two years (including job losses and record numbers of retirements) as well as Covid concerns most likely account for this drop-off. When crossed with employment status, unsurprisingly, data show retirees and the unemployed are the most likely to have quit co-working space membership in the past.
At the same time, workforce disruptions may benefit co-working. Among current renters, more than 40% say they transitioned to working remotely as the result of COVID-19. Some of these remote workers may have joined a co-working space as an alternative to working from home.
Who Are the “Co-workers”?
There’s a one in two chance that someone working at a co-working space is a business owner. Among survey respondents, around 50% of current and previous co-working space members own or operate their own business. The flexible rent agreements and office amenities that are typical of the co-working model may be particularly attractive to business owners during uncertain times, as some have suggested.
Co-working members are also significantly more likely to fall within the 18-34 age range. In fact, the entire industry appears to be dominated by Millennial and Gen Z generations. Gen Z in particular is the most open to co-working; close to 10% are current members, while 20% have prior experience renting at a co-working space and one-quarter are interested in it. Co-working could have a bright future ahead of it.
WFH for the Win
For now, co-working ranks dead last when it comes to workspace preference and is far overshadowed by the nearly 20% of respondents who prefer working at home out of a home office. And while more U.S. employees still prefer to make the commute into ‘the office’, that may be well on its way out, even in a post-pandemic world. Looking back five years before working remotely was commonplace shows that preference to work at an employer-run office space, whether traditional or other, fell from 50% to 35% today.
While Covid certainly may have slowed things down for co-working, preference among American workers remains steady since 2017, hovering around 5% and with room to grow. Co-working spaces are poised to leverage young workers interested in the co-working model, especially as they enter or return to the workforce.