Interview with Vanessa Sans

May 14, 2020

Ben Tannenbaum

I am Ben the CEO of coworkintel the data source of reference for the flexible workspace industry. Today, we have a Vanessa founder and co-working consultant at Happy Working Lab.
Hi Vanessa Hi Ben. How are you?

I'm very well. Thanks. So then let's start with giving some context on the impact the virus had on the flexible workspace sector and the real estate sector in general.

What have you seen as impact yourself so far? Well, I'm not an expert on real estate, but I can talk a bit about the coworking and the flexible workspace sectors which as many sectors has suffered losses by having to limit their use, their operations, close or stops

Well the coworking sector depends on providing the service and include payment to different suppliers, and that can be the rent if you do not own the property and also supplies internet maintenance cleaning etc. without forgetting the personal expenses which are quite important. So the P&L of co-working businesses have been affected especially those that couldn't manage to negotiate a deal to freeze important payments such as the rent

Yeah, that makes sense. So you are based in Barcelona. You were one of the first Occidental markets hit by the crisis. Can you tell us how it started and how you have seen coworking spaces reacting to it so far?

Yes. Well everything happened so fast and was very uncertain because no one was ready to face this situation all the information about what to do was given day to day and this is still the case now, we receive information day by day.

And I remember the start of the lockdown was March, 13th  co-working spaces had to quickly work out different strategies. So during during the state of alarm. Most of the spaces had to freeze membership payments or for this from from fifty to a hundred percent off besides they have also made a big effort to take care of the community more than ever and carrying out different options to get closer to the members helping them with legal things or to collect funds for the businesses and also organising online activities to get them to get the members connected

Yeah. That's that's a very good point. Some asset managers and flexible work spaces listening to this. I have not yet or you know, have not experienced a crisis of the intensity of the Spanish one. What recommendations would you give to them?

Well at this at this moment, I think that almost everybody has experienced the same situation, but it's true that in Spain we have to had a big impact and the first in Europe, like for example  in Italy and yes, of course, I have some tips. First of all, this is a tip for those operators who are paying the rent. I suggest them to try to make a deal with the landlord to be able to offer special deal to their members. It will help a lot if the operators speaks with the landlord with a statement of all data and economics to prove the business sustainability.

During the confinement, I will suggest taking care especially of the members and work on a retention strategy to get personal commitment, anticipates to them before they leave because it will be much more difficult to get them back later on.

So what they can do is to contact all the members and ask them about the businesses and their health Also segment members and focus on the weak offering them a discount or if they are on a flex membership change their autonomy.

As I said before to keep them connected. They can organize online activities from webinars to online afterworks

And what I want to point out is that we are suffering a physical isolation, not a social one so to be connected online it's very important in this moment. For the after confinement they should prepare the right prevention measures for covid

So member health and well-being have to be the operators main focus to reopen the door in his space in Spain and really working to adequately spaced the desks to ensure the maximum safety of the members.

Actually last weekend, I published a post covid guide for coworking spaces on my blog and just to sum up it includes measures about cleaning and disinfection access control the distribution of the space and some other additional measures. The article can be found here.

Another tip regarding how to adequately space the space a good tip is not to make a big investment in the space as this is a temporary situation. The vaccine I hope will be discovered soon.

I'm definitely hoping his well. I was wondering if you've seen in the co-working space during the crisis some residual demand, you know people not falling out and looking a little bit forward and how you know, how do you think and when do you think the demand will pick up and how will it pick up, if it does.

Well, this is a very difficult question. Honestly, I have no idea when things will be better. What I think is that the coworking sector has been always characterized by its resilience and the repeatability of its economics and the coronavirus is not going to be an exception.

So I think this is an opportunity to create a better world and regarding work to design a collective future where one focus on the well-being of people. Yeah, yeah, definitely. Now looking at one of the challenges for operators.

I imagine one of the most challenging thing has been the relationship between operators and landlords and investors and lenders.

Is it something that you've witnessed during doing your work? Do you have any recommendation on that front? Actually not but what I think is that in this hard time, the only thing that we know is that the entire world has to go with that with his vitals and it's time to help each other be more supportive than ever collaborate more than ever and share such solutions for all the parts.

So we are all together in these health world you have to stay supportive.

Yeah, definitely Now last question. How do you think the flexible workspace industry could sort of position itself after the lockdown to benefit or perhaps just recover from this period.

I think that there will be benefit. Flexibility right now will become more important than ever. I think that the coworking office sectors will grow more than before in the next months. Companies are starting to realise the benefits of flexible work in terms of space, financing and the mindset and the culture. Space-as-a-Service is going to be more understood by corporations from this moment. This is the perfect time to attract this segment.

Yeah, well, we'll wait and see.
Thank you very much.