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Co-working and the health crisis


With companies now seeing the benefits of different interactions and ways of using office space, the co-working offer may well change in the future. Director of Paris Office Leasing at BNP Paribas Real Estate France, Frédéric Godard explains the advantages for companies of investing in this business model.

Can you see an evolution in the requirements of Central Business District (CBD) occupiers as a result of the health crisis?

As we have navigated the health crisis, we have seen that financial directors have been working more closely with HR directors, while supervising real estate projects for their occupiers. We have observed a notable shift and suspect that in this post-Covid period, companies will act with caution, and be more willing to transform their fixed costs into variable costs. Perhaps this is the reason for the emergence of co-working, which has taken on a new form. Co-working which was, at first, a way for companies to set themselves apart and to be at the forefront of attracting new recruits, has now become a way to respond to the demand for flexibility, expressed by occupiers. Companies are anxious to take advantage of having more agility, from their spaces to their leases.

Do you think that the health crisis will mean that the use of co-working spaces will increase? Or will co-working evolve in response to it?

Beyond flexibility, I foresee three trends which will incite companies to use co-working. The delays in construction work caused by lockdown will force companies to use temporary spaces while their offices are being finished. Some companies will postpone their real estate projects, and might look for flexible and short-term office solutions that remain close by. Co-working spaces could serve as alternative spaces, acting as third places between home working and the gradual move back to the office.

How does your service offer or your products meet the new challenges? Can you give us an example of a client that you are supporting through these issues?

Since the beginning of lockdown, we have noticed a larger proportion of occupier clients considering flexible co-working solutions. Flexible solutions often rival traditional solutions for occupiers. Our service offer was already open to co-working offers, since the boom in 2016.

We have adapted our website to help occupiers to better understand the available co-working offers market by making a list of the 250 co-working offers in Paris. Our ever expanding knowledge of how different providers operate is what allows us to guide occupiers in the right direction. We also have decision-making tools which allow us to benchmark the operators against each other, as well as co-working solutions against those that are more traditional.

What about the evolution of co-workers in Paris?

This pandemic has meant a decrease in the amount of people using co-working spaces. After unimpeded growth since 2016 and a 30% uptake in available offers in the CBD in 2016, it’s time for a consolidation of this model. We can even foresee a population concentration movement like the one we witnessed when CBD began emerging.

In conclusion, the co-working players should be mindful of their ability to address and retain corporate customers in the long run, ensuring the importance of critical size and geographic interconnection without giving up brand power and how it’s perceived. These are some guarantees of survival in an environment which has suddenly become more uncertain.