Is there opportunity for co-working brands in ‘the new normal’? Fosbury & Sons think so
Social distancing rules worldwide discourage gatherings of sizable groups of people. Working from home, meanwhile, is quickly becoming the new normal. But what if you are a company specialized in sharing spaces – for work? Fosbury & Sons does just that. What’s more, the Belgian co-working brand ‘is based on the digital nomad life’, one that’s under great pressure in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Yet that’s also why F&S’s cofounder Stijn Geeraets and co-CEO Maarten van Gool believe the flexible character of their company’s offering will prove even more valuable in the long run. When we ‘hangout’, they share what community building can look like in the midst of crisis, how their brand aims to prepare its product offer for potential future outbreaks, and why the pandemic might actually accelerate the demand for services from co-working venues.
Being a brand based on community – one known for its cultural programming and social events – must be difficult in times that people are asked to self-isolate. What challenges are you facing, and how are you dealing with them?
It’s essential for us to make sure our members and guests still feel connected with Fosbury & Sons, even if we can’t see them or offer a platform to come together. We’ve set up special content themes such as ‘Tips from team F&S’ with tips on books, movies, recipes, et cetera. These are shared on our channels and newsletters. And, at the moment, we are transforming recurring concepts into digital-proof events. It’s important to keep our calendar alive with interesting topics and to bring people together in a different way: we offer activities such as online yoga classes, talks, workshops, cooking classes and more. We have a network of partners, and this helps us to move quickly.
What about your in-house team?
Just as important as it is to keep connecting with our members it is equally so to keep connecting with fellow team members. We have a video call every Monday morning to kick off the new week; everyone can give an update about his/her projects to guarantee a good communication flow. We did this already before the pandemic, but now, this meeting is also a real energy boost for the week ahead: it’s great to see everyone’s faces and how engaged they are. On Fridays, we’d usually go for a drink with the team; now, we organize an ‘e-peritivo’ to close the week.
Our teams had to adapt to this new situation quite fast. Curating an online event calendar, for example, is totally different than in real life. And we came up with adaptations to our product portfolio to match the needs of the current situation and for after: Relay by Fosbury & Sons. We just launched our Day Suites in the Amsterdam Prinsengracht location – this is a new formula that allows people to come spend a work day in a private suite. They’re safe, sealed and clean offices that enable people to work in a professional environment without distractions. Other solutions are in the pipeline and ready to be rolled out after the crisis.
Just as important as it is to keep connecting with our members it is equally so to keep connecting with fellow team members
What does building community look like in times of crisis?
Good communication is key: it is extremely important to communicate clearly and be transparent. Our members need to be properly informed on a regular basis –every time the government gives an update about measures, we have to translate this into our modified daily operations. Communication is also twofold: members have to feel that we are still here to answer their questions and concerns. They can always reach us by phone, e-mail and through our members’ exclusive app, Fons Jr.
How do you feel the current crisis will affect the future of the genre of work and specifically co-working?
It will definitely affect the way of working for many people and companies. The majority of people are working from home nowadays, and CEOs and decision makers are facing a lot of uncertainty about how to keep their businesses going. In the meantime, they need to be thinking about how their future workspace will look – how it will guarantee safety and productivity for their employees. This means they must question their office space, which we hope to help with. We see five evolutions of the workspace at this moment.
How comfortable can a company be by signing a long-term agreement if the world can change completely within one month?
Will you give us an insight into those evolutions?
The first is flexibility – how comfortable can a company be by signing a long-term agreement if the world can change completely within one month? Today companies are forced to be flexible, fast and resilient, and they have the responsibility to make their real estate strategy answer to this current situation.
When restrictions lessen, they’ll have massive difficulties in guaranteeing social distance in offices. A plausible revolution will be that these companies will need to put teams back in private spaces, which will require extra space. After months of lockdown people will be ready to get out – but only when it’s safe and comfortable. Travelling by public transport will not immediately be seen as such: this introduces the possibility to decentralize teams from their HQ and position teams per city, giving them the option to work together in private suites in a serviced office. At the same time, if companies realize teleworking can be part of a weekly work routine, it will also impact the workspaces they need. At Fosbury & Sons we are flexible when a business needs to downsize or expand.
More and more people will question the added value of the traditional office
More and more people will question the added value of the traditional office. It’s an enormous job to make sure all regulations are followed in an office space – as an operator we take care of this for our users. Business owners should be able to focus on their business and leave it to specialists. Ultimately, this situation will give co-working and serviced offices a boost – even elevating them to the new normal.