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Post-COVID Workplace & Shared Office Space

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Businesses and their staff are gingerly peeking their heads out of work-from-home settings, wondering what types of offices — if any — are waiting for them after the epidemic as COVID-19 vaccinations roll out across Canada and case counts wane in many regions of the country. The question is, will shared office spaces play a role in the post-covid workplace?

Several large corporations have already stated their intentions, setting the tone for the discourse in North America. JPMorgan Chase has demanded that all of its workers return to work; in the meanwhile, Ottawa-based e-commerce company Shopify has abandoned its headquarters in favor of a remote-only workforce.

However, as vaccine protection improves and the debate over the future of work heats up, some businesses are seeing an opportunity to strike a middle ground by adopting a more “flexible” approach to the post-covid workplace – through co-working.

The traditional configuration for co-working or shared workspaces varies from office to office, but it usually involves a large space that is occupied by several organizations but is fitted out and maintained by a single supplier.

Some areas are large and open, with a row of long desks, while others have semi-private offices. Many suppliers cater to solo remote employees or start-ups searching for a supportive community.

Co-working agreements are often less restricted than regular leases with a commercial landlord, with some agreements lasting only a year or less. Hybrid working models are also in demand.

A majority of those polled (77%) desire a mix of remote and in-office working styles when the pandemic ends, according to a survey of more than 2,000 Canadian workers released by KPMG LLP in May.

The demand for “hybrid” working arrangements could lead organizations to co-working. Not all corporations would want to let go of their real estate assets in the way our friends at Shopify claim. Companies that can get out of a lease that no longer makes sense for them post-pandemic, on the other hand, may be seeking for more flexible space in the short term to test their employees’ appetites for a return to work in a post-covid workplace.