Impacts of COVID-19 on Coworking

We humans are social animals. We simply do better in communities than we do on our own.

I’ve always believed that those who work independently or remotely thrive when they have a physical community in which they can nurture and be nurtured. This realization inspired me to open my first coworking space years ago, and then, eventually, to co-found Deskpass.

The beauty of a tight-knit group is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. There’s an undeniable force that pushes us to achieve more than if we were alone.

The other side of the coin, however, is that collective behavior can amplify the unease we feel in times of uncertainty. This is especially true if the threat is severe. As humans, we begin to panic. The closer and more real that peril becomes, the larger our panic grows.

COVID-19 is an existential threat to some, and a menacing adversary to all of us. It’s had an undeniable impact on all businesses including our customers, network of operating partners, and of course, Deskpass itself.

To help shed some light on this impact, we analyzed our data from thousands of reservations on our network spanning nearly two dozen metropolitan areas across the U.S.

Specifically, we measured how various levels of coronavirus incidence affected hotdesk check-ins for each of the metro areas. The results surprised us both in terms of the uniformity of human behavior and how sensitive communities are to incremental upticks in reported cases.

The first point is evident in the r2 of the scatter plot above. An r2 value of 0.95 means that 95% of the variance of behavior can be predicted by the line. In simple terms, all of the dots are very, very close to the line.

As for the sensitivity, you can see how our network has been affected by small changes in the incidence of coronavirus. For example, when Chicago had a reported 0.002% incidence of the virus, it correlated to a 28% drop in check-ins. At the other extreme was Seattle/King County with an incidence of just 0.040% but an overwhelming 85% drop in utilization.

As tough of a story that this data presents, it is a temporary condition.

In the last couple of weeks, a silver lining has emerged: we’ve seen companies of all sizes all over the world quickly and seriously adopt remote work policies. This bodes well for the future of remote working and, by extension, coworking.

In the months ahead, the crisis will undoubtedly recede, and as the situation improves and our communities begin to see light at the end of the tunnel, we believe that tight-knit communities across the country will once again, amplify the best of humanity and propel the recovery further and faster than we can imagine today.

On behalf of everyone at Deskpass, I wish you, your families, and your businesses the best of luck in these trying times. All of us look forward to a much brighter future where we can once again work side-by-side and inspire each other to reach great heights.

Sam + Team Deskpass

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