Hello ladies and gents! Welcome to another episode of the Coworking Values Podcast. For this episode, we have Miryana Stancheva, who works for OfficeRnD in Bulgaria, a coworking expert with a PhD in Psychology.
Miryana will be sharing her insight into the identity core brand of the coworking industry during its “teenage years” and now, as the Covid19 crisis hits the globe. She will also be delving into how coworking spaces can generate revenue during the lockdown restrictions and how virtual or online coworking community decreases the values of the coworking industry.
How does Miryana think the coworking community can adapt to the “new normal”?
Yeah, that’s, I think that will be the biggest challenge of rethinking the whole business model of generating an income, because most of the spaces, generate income based on square meters or price per desk, plus meeting rooms and event spaces, these are kind of the most common revenue streams tend to have to lower the density of the desks and heavy content on how really then the calculation won’t be won’t be right.
So, but, I mean, I see that there is a lot of discussion around that. But this is only one side of the coin. We shouldn’t forget that scoring is not only about the space and square meters in the desks, but people just be in coworking space because of the community.
And I think this will be kind of the pinch of magic the thing that will bring people in the spaces. Regardless, the measures, or the many areas, changing the price of the desks, but we’ve been in social isolation for months now and every one of us is really craving for social connections for together and as for sharing ideas for brainstorming with people, but in person, of course via zoom is very nice to see, we have all these digital technologies but in person is totally different.
So I believe that this will be kind of. I’m not sure if I can say as a unique selling point but it will be definitely something that will bring the people into the CO working spaces. And I think we should also focus a lot on that because the coworking concept is a balance between generating lease revenue from the desk sprinklers and building the community and keeping it together.
So definitely, it will be hard for the spaces to adapt to the new regulations, maybe they will be just temporary or one or two years maybe will be just for a few months.
Sounder MIRYANA STANCHEVA – THE NEW COWORKING IDENTITY AMIDST THE COVID CRISIS PODCAST TRANSCRIPT
Bernie J. Mitchell 0:03
Hello Ladies, gentlemen, and welcome to this week’s episode of the Coworking Values podcast. And we’re carrying on connecting with all our friends around the European coworking universe, about how you can survive and stay alive and connect and help each other out in the COVID crisis.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 0:24
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Bernie J. Mitchell 0:59
Today we got Miryana – what are you known for? And what would you like to be known for?
Miryana Stancheva 1:09
Yeah, I can say a couple of things about myself. I’m a psychologist. I’m a coworking researcher for seven years now. I worked in many different coworking spaces. Currently, I work for OfficeRnD, and help customers adapting the software. So, I’ve been around the coworking industry for a while now.
Bernie J. Mitchell 1:32
Before we zoom into what you’ve got ready for us today we’re talking about pronouncing names. So, I’m going to go for Zeljko.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 1:43
Well… we do have the entire 2020 and 2021 for you to practice you on that…
Bernie J. Mitchell 1:55
I’m determined to get it right.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 1:56
Yeah, well, it’s going to be on your wall. So hi, everybody, and welcome to this week’s podcast show and, Miryana welcome to the show as our guests. So, Bernie, what do we have this week? Miryana is from OfficeRnD and from Bulgaria if I notice correctly, is that right? Miryana?
Miryana Stancheva 2:17
Yeah, yeah, correct. I’m from Sofia, Bulgaria.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 2:20
Yeah, you’re still working there. You’re located there?
Miryana Stancheva 2:26
Yeah, I’m located there. I spent a couple of years in Berlin and I came back to Bulgaria a year ago or so.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 2:32
So, you’re working remotely with your team? Is that a kind of a regular work habit for you? Or is this due to the situation?
Miryana Stancheva 2:43
I mean, we are fully remote right now. Which is kind of the new normal at this point. But we did have the policy of remote work every now and then and home office. So, it’s not an exceptional situation, being 8 weeks working from home that’s a bit more exceptional.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 3:04
Yeah, you can’t even go to a coworking space and work or to a coffee shop and work remotely, but in any case, not entirely new situation for you. So, Bernie…
Bernie J. Mitchell 3:18
So I want to frame this as – previously in the Coworking Assembly… so that there’s the Coworking Library and Miryana was one of the people that did a presentation in Coworking Europe in Warsaw at the Coworking Library meet up – And I was enchanted by how you presented coworking at its teenage stage and its identity crisis. And right in Warsaw, we knew we were going to podcast about this, and we just didn’t manage to get to that yet. Then this happened, the epidemic happened and the whole world and industries been turned upside down and I think there’s a whole new identity crisis going on. And where do you want to begin with that? Because, there’s a lot of fascinating stuff here you can get very, very technical and very philosophical and knock yourself out. But what are we supposed to be doing as an industry now?
Miryana Stancheva 4:27
We’re really facing more than one crisis, I think. Right now, as you said, I was kind of focusing on the on the development of the whole coworking movement in what kind of stage we are right now. I did this kind of a comparison between the human development the psychosocial development of the human and the coworking development. And it seems like we are really in a coworking stage with these emotional ups and downs with a Wondering from one end to the other trying to figure out what’s the identity of the coworking. And while we are going through that the COVID-19 crisis just hit us. And every single space is trying to go through that in the best way possible. And at the same time, we see a lot of operators asking questions. They’re thirsty to collect feedback and other experience and really, there is not a single answer. How and what’s the best way to go through that and what the outcome will be. So yeah, it’s really a huge question, which every one of us is currently asking I believe.
Bernie J. Mitchell 5:52
I feel as an industry we were going through that teenage thing, and I don’t want to say I Got that straightaway, because I’m so clever – now that makes sense to a lot of sense. And now I feel we’ve suddenly had to move to a new house and country and our parents have got divorced at the same time. And it’s just very disruptive, and every day some kind of conversation like this, or on an assembly call and we don’t know what is going to happen. And sometimes we know, Zeljko and I were just podcasting with Laetitia. And sometimes I just don’t know what’s going to happen because we’re all business owners. And it sounds a bit… Well at least you’ve got food – but we don’t know what’s going to happen. And as you well know, from the time you spend in industry, people want to know what to do when they open their coworking spaces. And we don’t know when that’s going to be so it’s really hard to plan anything. I was hoping I come up with a question there.
Miryana Stancheva 7:04
Very often the situation of crisis can be also an advantage. And when you go through that you come up probably with something new or with a new solution or with new identity. So definitely there will be a certain outcome, we’re striving to have a cohesive identity of the coworking industry, that won’t be a split between the only community focused or only real estate focused, coworking or flexible workspace operators, and we want to have this kind of a back together into one complex identity and have this feeling of community and belonging as it was in the beginning of the coworking movement I believe. I think there is an advantage of the crisis we’re going through together with the COVID-19 crisis because this triggers more creative approaches in dealing with the situation.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 8:13
Yeah, and as we’re discussing the exactly the Coworking spaces and the transition that they are going through, a lot of coworking spaces have paused… Some of them are operational, but very, very low key, and some of them are closed and basically. coming back to what we keep talking about the new normal and then reopening is going to come with all sorts of additional headaches, like thinking about preventative measures, disinfecting, what are the new rules and regulations of a coworking space. So how are you seeing that and do you think that the coworking spaces can adapt to that? Because as I’m hearing a lot of them when they hear they need to even move their desks apart they’re cutting spaces that they can use for members, essentially cutting their income, cutting their probability of making enough income to even pass the bottom line and so on.
Miryana Stancheva 9:29
I think that will be the biggest challenge of rethinking the whole business model of generating an income, because most of the spaces generate income based on square meters or price per desk plus meeting rooms and event spaces. These are kind of the most common revenue streams and if you have to lower the density of the desks and it down half then the calculation won’t be right. I see that there is a lot of discussion around that, but this is only one side of the coin. We shouldn’t forget that coworking is not only about the space in square meters in the desks, but people just coming in to coworking spaces because of the community. And I think this will be the pinch of magic, the thing that will bring people in the spaces regardless of the measures, maybe there is a change in the price of the desks. But we’ve been in social isolation for months now and every one of us is really craving for social connections or togetherness or sharing ideas for brainstorming with people but in person, of course via Zoom is very nice that we have these digital technologies but in person is totally different.
Miryana Stancheva 11: 03
So, I believe that this will be, I’m not sure if I can say it as a unique selling point, but it will be definitely something that will bring the people into the coworking spaces. And I think we should also focus a lot on that, because the coworking concept is a balance between generating this revenue from the desks, for instance and building the community and keeping it together. So definitely it will be hard for the spaces to adapt to the new regulations, maybe they will be just temporary, or one or two years maybe will be just for a few months. Yeah, I don’t know, I’m not sure.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 11:44
I’m definitely craving that table tennis tournament that we have in house so which cannot be done on zoom. So I wanted also to ask In your mind, so usually one type of revenue coming from renting desks and renting space and organizing events is the type of revenue that coworking spaces have lived on. And everything else that we did is serving the community and building up the community an organizing these small events for the members have been pro bono in the sense that we offer it to them for free so that we can raise the community level, you do something for them while they’re being a member. And now we see a lot of people in a lot of spaces needing to turn on virtual coworking – like online, even virtual community memberships and online small gigs, in order to form some sort of revenue will this diminish that community value that we usually offer just for the fun of it?
Miryana Stancheva 13:11
I think it will be an add on probably because we can’t expect that people will just rush into the coworking spaces right after the lockdown restrictions lift and it will be a very slow process I believe. So, I think it’s good to combine the digital or the online virtual memberships – this will allow you perhaps to attract new members that are not part of your space. And they will be part of this virtual community. On the other hand, you keep your current members and a smooth the process of going back to the space and to the community. I think I don’t think this will cut the personal community feeling within the space if you have the virtual as well. Actually, comes to mind – a factory Berlin for instance, they’re operating as far as I know more of a private club. So they had these virtual memberships for ages which gives access to the online community to the Slack channels and actually the selling points of this approach was the community and the people that you can connect with and you can work with, so I believe this this will be just a good add on.
Bernie J. Mitchell 14:47
I have a position I’d like you to validate or you’re welcome to cut it down – as I’ve gone around, speaking to lots of spaces, What I see is people that are very community led have been fine, they still have problems that have come about, but the people that just rented a desk and didn’t do anything else have really stuck. And that’s what you heard you refer to as community led spaces or real estate spaces and I’m not taking a big slap at real estate people but that strong sense of community has been worth more than anything at this moment in time. And do agree with that? And you are very welcome to disagree with that if despite my enthusiasm…
Miryana Stancheva 15:38
No, I agree I’m just wondering about the probably the hybrid spaces that were in between a real estate office rental and still keeping the community. Definitely the time right now is quite hard because maybe some of their companies, so they will have to rely on the community they have built. and maybe Now is the time when most of the spaces will realize that the effort that they put in the past for building a community something that will pay off in the future and maybe the spaces that were using the coworking industry only as a real estate approach maybe they will realize that now the business is following the real estate rules. So, I believe this will be interesting to observe in the future. I can’t really tell what the outcome will be, but definitely there will be some differences. Maybe the perfect outcome would be if we can come up with this identity that combines both together and it all works perfectly. But we should be realistic as well.
Bernie J. Mitchell 17:00
This is a bit of a philosophical question because I’ve read posts and I find myself saying it without really thinking about it, but I feel it… I say people are craving community and connection and there’s this whole conversation around that community and connection bit and I feel it because I live at home with my wife and child and we don’t talk across the fence to the neighbours but we don’t see anyone else. And I spend a lot of time online talking to people and managing projects and doing things so it’s not like I’m on my own. If you got a comment about just being in the kitchen together and having a coffee – what’s going on with that? Why am I so upset about not having that in my life?
Miryana Stancheva 18:00
Because we still have the kind of the restrictions if it was just a matter of choice to meet the people over a Zoom meeting and it wasn’t the only way to meet them maybe that would have been just a nice option to sit in the kitchen chat with someone else but then you know that probably you can meet them for coffee next day in person. And now when it’s the only option, we do feel connected but we are missing this very natural in person meeting where you can look at the whole body language and just the communication is way more different. So, I think that’s why there is this kind of a gap in in the feeling.
Bernie J. Mitchell 18:48
As a human race, how will we be, when we start returning, some people think that as soon as everyone’s allowed to go back, there’ll be this rush of people back to coworking spaces, because they just cannot wait to get out their house, for the reasons you just said. Or people will go back to working from home, people are used to it, I’m happier at home than I thought I would be – I want to give up my coworking space. So, what sort of, in your opinion what do you think will happen? How do you think will be?
Miryana Stancheva 19:34
Maybe it’s probably also country specific, depending on the way the COVID-19 crisis hit the country. And maybe how cautious the people are when going back to the to the social interaction, whether in the shop or in the coworking space. So maybe there will be some people that will just rush in the spaces maybe others will take it one day per week or two days per week and just go back to these routine, because it was very stressful to be locked at home And maybe it will be stressful to go back in the whole hustle and bustle every day and traveling back and forth. I’ve been thinking about that as well, because I had a good rest at the same time staying at home and working from home. So it was, it was a good time. But now I want to go back as well. But I’m wondering if I want to go back for two or three days a week, but not full week in the space. So, I believe it will be a slower step by step process instead of a huge burst of running people into spaces.
Bernie J. Mitchell 20:52
With all the research you’ve done we’re looking around the industry – have you got a hope of what will take away from this? As an example, I hope more coworking spaces will happen outside of the middle of cities? So I live in Zone Four, it’s not East London, but it’s Zone Four of London in the East. And there are no coworking spaces here. And then if you go five miles in, there’s hundreds. And I would rather walk around the corner, drop my son at school, go to a coworking space, do my stuff, walk, pick him up from school and come home again. But at the moment, I have to go into very nice coworking spaces in Zone Two, which I love, But I would love that Mainyard Studios to be in near me. So that’s my hope for what will happen – is that people will travel less into London and that will develop a need for out of town coworking. So, it’s something you hope as an industry or personally that will come out of what’s going on.
Miryana Stancheva 22:01
Something that maybe I’m really hoping is that the coworking spaces again become places that gather people who are self-motivated. Because something that happens in the bigger spaces that offer more office spaces is that the founder of a company is driven to be in the space, but the rest of his team 6,10 ,12 people have no idea why they’re in a coworking space, what the coworking concept is, what the benefits are, and so on. So that was not their choice, and to end up with a huge community, with for instance, 300 people, but only one third of them know why they’re there. And this influences the whole community dynamics after that, so maybe I hope that coworking spaces will be for people that personally have chosen to be there.
Bernie J. Mitchell 23:09
That is a great answer. I didn’t see that coming. I’m really happy with that. What’s really interesting for you? And I’m sort of talking on a by day basis what are you what’s catching your attention now? Or what do you feel the urge to research or unpack or dig around at the moment?
Miryana Stancheva 23:28
What I was looking around was exactly the how the spaces aren’t going through the crisis. What they are doing, how they see the upcoming months. And they see a very optimistic line through many of the articles I read, but very often, I’m critical and question things. So, I would just advise people to be more also realistic and try to play the worst scenario as well, because I see very positive words, which is very good and very motivational. But still, I think we should be realistic and think that some things can be more challenging.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 24:25
I think that’s a wonderful idea to kind of wrap up on. So, Bernie, would you like to wrap up the show as far as the initial information or any shoutouts that you might want to have?
Bernie J. Mitchell 24:40
I’m dying to shout out loudly about the forthcoming Coworking Symposium, which is at the end of May, which we’ll link in the show notes. We have, how many Is it 10 or 15 People?
Zeljko Crnjakovic 24:50
13, just in between what you just said. It’s on the 27th of May from 9am Central European Time, it’s totally online. You can register at coworkingsymposium.com, but yes, the link will be in the show notes.
Miryana Stancheva 25:07
And I registered already.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 25:10
Yeah! Did you register today or earlier when it was supposed to be in real life?
Unknown Speaker 25:19
I think I signed up two days ago.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 25:22
Cool, because the Coworking Symposium was supposed to first be a real-life event. And then we switched it to online. So cool. Looking forward to having you there. And already we have over 120 participants, so it’s gonna be crazy.
Miryana Stancheva 25:42
Bernie J. Mitchell 25:43
And then don’t forget to go to the European Coworking Assembly website, if you type into your favourite search engine, European Coworking Assembly and sign up for our email. And every week we send news about events I’ve spoken about links to this podcast, links to people we’re working with and Helping, and also articles from our website. And that is the best place in Europe to find out what’s going on. Anything else Zeljko?
Zeljko Crnjakovic 26:07
No, that’s it. Miryana, thank you very much for being our guest today.
Miryana Stancheva 26:12
Yeah, thank you very much for hosting me. It was a pleasure. And yeah, hope to see you soon.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 26:17
Talk to you soon. Guys talk to you next episode.
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