7 Takeaways from the Office Evolution Conference

Last week, members of the Global Workspace Association (GWA) rubbed elbows with folks from NAIOP, the commercial real estate development association, at the Office Evolution Conference in Brooklyn, New York.

Deskworks was there demoing our software and talking to space operators and real estate developers about automation, enabling members to be more self-sufficient in using a center, 24/7 access, scaling a space and much more.

Here are seven takeaways from the conference, as well as observations about the shared workspace industry, at large.

1. The business of coworking

The GWA conference is unlike other coworking conferences in that there’s a strong focus on the business of running workspaces. People are looking for ways to build successful, scalable spaces as efficiently as possible. There was a lot of talk at the conference about scaling a business to multiple workspaces, with a focus on profitability.

2. Industry newcomers

There’s an influx of real estate developers and property owners who are looking to understand this industry and how it fits in with their existing understanding of owning and operating commercial real estate. They know they need to be creating shared workspaces (or working with people who know the business to create spaces for them) and they’re researching where to begin.

3. The changing market

If you own property, you typically try to get as long a lease as possible with regular, annual escalations. You need a long-term commitment to guarantee your mortgage. The bank’s not going to give you money if you could lose all your clients in a 30 day period. These leases are extensive and cumbersome.

But, in the last 12-18 months, owners are understanding that the market is changing. Potential tenants don’t know what’s going to be happening in 10 years. They may have a picture of two years out, but they don’t know beyond that. They need more flexible property agreements, which is where coworking and shared workspace plans come in.

It’s important to note that, for shared workspace operators, the only way coworking, and short-term commitments work, is if no individual accounts for too big a piece of your income. If a single member accounts for more than 15 percent of a site’s revenue, you can have a problem.

4. Abundance of commercial space

Retail, in general, is dying because of Amazon and online shopping, so a lot of retail space is available in downtowns, malls and suburbs alike. Workspace operators are in a strong position for leasing because real estate developers have a lot of vacancy in their properties. It’s a strong trend and it’s only going to continue.

Deskworks is shared workspace software designed by space operators. Request a free demo.

5. Partnership opportunities

Landlords will need to partner with space operators to be able to offer some short term agreements. As Deskworks founder and CEO Barbara Sprenger explains, “It’s a move from leases to licenses.”

6. Automation

There’s a growing interest among workspace owners and operators in automation. People are interested in having systems that power their space, handle IT and integrate network access systems. Sprenger notes, “To run efficiently and keep costs and errors down, both systems and equipment must be automated. You should be able to track who’s in your center through wifi or access systems. This should directly check people in against their plans, so you are capturing the revenue you are supposed to capture. Reservations should automatically sweep onto bills. In this industry, we are dealing with many small charges, so automation is particularly critical.”

Deskworks can do all of this for you, including integrating with your network, printer, access system, reservation aggregators, Quickbooks, etc. Centers can be run with one person on a regular work schedule, while making your center available to members 24/7.

7. The human aspect

Spaces still need to have someone on-site as a community manager. You need someone in the space who feels a sense of ownership, can onboard new members, and can build community and facilitate networking connections.

If you’d like to see Deskworks in action, request a free demo.

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