Reinventing co-working spaces in wake of pandemic
Working life in Germany is barely imaginable without co-working spaces since their emergence in 2009. Hamburg is now home to over 100 such spaces where the emphasis is on working together. Co-working has long since become a way of life especially for many self-employed, freelancers and start-ups. Sharing offices and expertise can yield all kinds of novel ideas and offer a break from humdrum routine work. Depending on the co-working space, the focus varies from building communities, hosting events to social responsibility. Hamburg News spoke to those behind three co-working spaces in Hamburg that are all optimistic about the future despite the havoc wrought by the pandemic. The trend towards corporate co-working is emerging and companies may yet offer their employees an opportunity to work in co-working spaces or remotely i.e., from home or in the office itself
Corona prompting rethink
The pandemic has led to a fundamental rethink in many companies, said Elisabeth Lewandowski, a representative of betahaus Hamburg. "The coronavirus crisis has shown that remote working can be far better than most people expect. Many employees like the flexibility of being able to organise their time between work and leisure. However, remote working means people lack the exchange with their colleagues and not everyone can work remotely. Co-working spaces could be an interim solution for hybrid working and fill the gap between office and remote working. "Employees could spend two days working remotely, two days in the co-working space and one day in the office," Lewandowski suggested.
Focus on community at bethahaus
The betahaus is considered a trendsetter in the German co-working scene since its 2009 launch in Berlin. Workers are offered a full co-working package and do not have to worry about the infrastructure or cleaning their workspaces. The company operates two branches in Hamburg namely betahaus Schanze and finhaven HafenCity.
"The community idea is particularly close to our hearts," Lewandowski stressed. The community benefits from a grown, diverse swarm intelligence in which low-threshold help and support are a matter of course. "That is precisely what members seek in our community."
Beehive - flexible co-working
Beehive Co-working operates three branches in Hamburg with emphasis on flexibility. The business idea targets spontaneous customers in need of a working space at short notice. "You book online and get immediate access to our co-working spaces 24/7," said Teresa Rosenblatt, Beehive's representative. "Moreover, we do not have a cancellation period and you can book for just one day. So, you do not have to commit at all and can work spontaneously for a day in the co-working space." Such spaces could become part of work in future. "Co-working will be one of many components, alongside the office in the company or the remote office," she opined.
eeden - feminist co-creation space
The future of co-working is promising, according to Jessica Louis, joint founder of the feminist co-creation space eeden, which is only five minutes from betahaus. The foursome, Nürsen Kaya, Kübra Gümüsay, Onejiru Arfmann and Louis hit on the idea for eeden in association with other committed women after initiating the Hamburg Women's March in March 2017 and the city's first feminist bar camp at betahaus. "We realised the need to establish a fixed space for the strong, common vision of a just future for everyone," Louis noted.
Workspaces, workshops, meeting and event spaces are the very basis of eeden's vision of social impact. "We want to do our part to make the world a fairer place. Very different people come together in eeden to rethink and reshape society at different levels and not just for women, but for everyone."
The unusual interior design conjures up atmosphere and on entering eeden. "People often think, 'wow, it's beautiful here'," said Louis. Everyone can feel safe and inspired at eeden. "Spaces have a strong influence on how people interact and relate to each other. The spaces provide a stage for touching encounters and the emergence of socially relevant projects and initiatives. This is where innovations for a livable tomorrow emerge." Themed co-working spaces stand a good chance of growing further future, said Louis.
Impact of pandemic
Although the future of many co-working spaces may seem bright, the pandemic has dealt some a severe blow. "We generate about half of our turnover from events. The money is all gone because of the pandemic. We were lucky to be able to fall back on state aid and to offer all our staff short-term work," said Lewandowski. The betahaus was forced to freeze membership numbers to ensure adherence to social distancing regulations although demand had increased compared to the pre-pandemic era.
The eeden, the opening of which coincided with the pandemic, was hit by the COVID-19 crisis. "If we look at eeden in economic terms, trying to keep the place open might seem slightly crazy to less idealistic people. However, we founders have all put our heart and soul into eeden and on social level, we are very aware of the need for places like ours," said Louis.
Does the future belong to co-working?
Many Hamburg-based co-working spaces including betahaus, eeden and Beehive have used the pandemic to expand their spaces and offers. Lewandowski commented: "We believe that the co-working market can emerge stronger from the crisis and change." Many companies are showing interest in optional co-working spaces for their employees, according to Rosenblatt. "Beehive's latest offer targets companies who in turn can offer their staff (corporate) co-working spaces and manage them entirely online." The emphasis now is on adapting to changes in the working world. In any case, the course for the future of co-working has been set.