Coworking is now extremely widespread throughout Europe. Coworking businesses have been coming onto the market everywhere from large cities to small towns. Despite a slight slowdown in the pace with which new coworking companies were opening in most European countries last year, almost 3 million m² were being used for coworking according to a survey of 25 cities across Europe between 2017 and 2019[1]. In the centre of London, Europe's leading "coworking city", these spaces represented almost 14% of the total surface area occupied over this period.

It is probably still too early to assess the real impact of the pandemic on the coworking market. However, the flexibility which this model provides could help to ensure its sustainability. Companies which need to cut costs could use shared work spaces as a way to lease premises without being tied into fixed time periods. The pandemic is likely to push back numerous office construction projects across Europe. Once again, work spaces could offer a solution to companies waiting for their new building to be completed. Finally, people will only go back to the office gradually. It is not possible for all workers to be at the office at the same time due to social distancing measures. Businesses therefore may use coworking spaces for some of their employees.

Will the pandemic accelerate the move to coworking? Or will it trigger a shift towards a different model?

"As well as flexibility, I think there are three trends which will push businesses towards coworking spaces. The delays in office construction caused by the lockdown will force companies to use temporary spaces while the works are being completed. Some companies may also postpone their construction plans and look for fallback solutions or options for local expansion in this type of space. Coworking offices could also be used as transitional spaces in between the "home office" and the gradual return to the main office. Coworking businesses must focus on their capacity, target and create long-term loyalty among large corporations, and be mindful of the concepts of critical mass and geographic coverage without abandoning the strength of the brand and its reputation. These are ways of ensuring survival in a climate which has suddenly become much more uncertain."

Bertrand Cotard

Director – Letting & Sales, Brussels Office Market