Ever heard of small or medium businesses referred to as the backbone of the country and wondered why ?
Well, in 2020, Parliament identified that 99% of businesses in the UK are SMEs, employing up to 250 people the majority of which were micro businesses (companies with 0-9 employees) which accounted for 96% (5,7 million) of all businesses in the UK!
But, a year after the first reported cases of Covid-19 and despite the inoculation process being rolled-out world-wide, there are some serious doubts as to whether things will ever return to the way they were pre-Covid. Most people feel we’ll all need to prepare for a “another new” normal. What this new normal will be is still undecided but what has been quite apparent is the surge on self-employment figures. The pandemic left millions of people unemployed, many of which were able to go into business which saw a spike in the number of new start up businesses in 2020 (up 2% from 2019).
SMEs currently account for 60% of all jobs in the UK and, according to the Parliament Research Brief, and 21% of total turnover of the private sector (up from 14,3% in 2019).
We spoke to Steve Pette about the impact that Covid-19 had on this crucial part of the UK economy as well as on coworking spaces and their role in continue to support this growing part of the private sector.
According to Pette, coworking has become a popular solution in larger cities outside of London where they are pretty mainstream, post pandemic and with the new work order that means there’s a massive opportunity.
An opportunity for the smaller towns and smaller cities, to capitalise on people following the new buzzwords of “working close to home”, “work from home”, “remote first” and WFA -work from anywhere.
But, working from home isn’t for everyone: you need to be a very special person to work from home, you need to be incredibly disciplined, you need to have the infrastructure in place. So, considering the fact that the UK went from about, 15% of people working from home to about 60% almost overnight, when lockdown was announced, and globally it was close to 1 Billion. Something that would usually take a decade of behaviour change was super charged by the pandemic.
Solutions such as coworking spaces are ideally placed for the new future ! They provide a professional working environment with the right infrastructure for those people looking for a place to work away from home or the office! and more importantly you have access to like minded people.
Pette also believes that this past year has afforded people the opportunity to truly consider time is precious, long commutes on crowded trains , buses or sitting in traffic to get into cities during rush hour just isn’t the best use of time. Not only do coworking spaces offer a strong sense of community and boost in productivity as well as benefit to the local economy but, members don’t have to spend a fortune on transport costs or get frustrated by traffic or overcrowded public transport as everyone tries to make it into the office to clock-in. Coworking and creative collective working has for years relied on proximity to breed opportunity, post covid-19 the work environment will need to adapt to the new change and social distancing. It will need to redefine, but that doesn’t mean the philosophy of having businesses working together will change.
Does this mean that the office as we know it will cease to exist? According to Pette, no, the office isn’t dead – the office will still remain there. Instead he believes it will just be repurposed in a different way. Instead of people commuting to the office every day he foresees people traveling maybe twice a week to the office, the hybrid working model will be the future. Pette thinks that the ability to go into the office will almost be seen as an added benefit in the employee package.
He also believes that larger organisations will start taking space in coworking spaces, both in cities and outside offering hub and spoke options, whilst having a gathering of employees in local areas where they live. Think of satellite offices where, although you might still have a head office, instead of having to commute to one huge building, employees now join a satellite office at one of the coworking spaces relative to where they live.
As large enterprise businesses go into recovery they are already re evaluating their assets, offloading floor plates and downsizing not just for cost reasons but also because their people are demanding a change in lifestyle and work. It makes sense to look at diversified workspaces where company culture can still be present but its responds to the new work order and co working spaces provide the answers for many …