“As of March 15, everything went to hell.” Manuel Fernández is a partner and head of online marketing at Coworking La Fábrica , with four spaces in different areas of Madrid. He is also a client, since his private company is hosted in one of them. “In March we were living in a golden age. We had occupations around 99.5%, and now, although we are going back, we are only approaching 60%, ”he acknowledges with a mixture of concern and relief.
The pandemic has represented a turning point in the growth curve of this flexible office rental modality , which since its arrival in Spain in 2012 has multiplied the square meters of surface by nine, which today reaches 980,000.
According to the latest report that the Coworking Spain platform will release in the coming weeks, and to which EL PAÍS has had access, 2,300 spaces were counted within the coworking category between 2019 and 2020. Of all of them, only 1,175 registered some type activity, coinciding in the second year with a virus that has quarantined staff meetings, one of the reasons for being this business.
“Looking ahead to December and January, accompanied by the arrival of the vaccine that we are all waiting for, customers tell us that they will return to normal. People want to start, but still do not dare due to the current situation. Also in Madrid it is being especially complicated by the regrowth ”, continues Fernández.
The economic impact of the coronavirus on a sector that had a turnover of about 88 million euros in 2019 was concentrated in March and April. Then, during the confinement decreed after the state of alarm, these spaces lost between 30% and 40% of the demand compared to the previous year.
“The pandemic moment has been hard, because the word that is most attributed to coworking is flexibility, and flexibility is also in the contracts. At a time of health alarm, this flexibility is a double-edged sword, because just as a company decides to take a space for tomorrow and come with its 20 workers, next month it can decide to leave ”, warns Xavi Bassons, counselor delegate and co-founder of Monday Working Spaces, which has five of the 353 spaces of this modality in Barcelona, the province with the highest concentration, ahead of Madrid (390), and well above Valencia (60) and Seville (43) .
However, in Bassons’ opinion, the pandemic has served to discover the existence of this service and accelerate the process of change in the mentality of many entrepreneurs. “The coworking trend is going to accelerate through the pandemic. Obviously not because it has brought anything good, but in the more flexible and more technological sectors, the process of adapting these formulas is going to accelerate ”, he points out.
More than 40,000 jobs
“The current situation is leading many companies to rethink the office model they had. There are many of them that are trying to change to coworking or suggesting that their workers go to spaces of this type near their homes ”, explains Manuel Zea, founder of coworkingspain.es . According to the report of its platform, in 2019 the sector had 28,000 fixed and 13,000 flexible positions, more than three times those registered in 2013 (8,600 and 4,400, respectively), and the value of the industry grew by 7%, in six and a half million, compared to 2018.
The average rental price of one of these spaces in Spain is 157 euros per month (it includes cleaning services, Internet connection and electricity, among others), with Barcelona (204) and Madrid (200) being the cities More expensive; while Las Palmas offers the most affordable prices (123). “It is true that the mobility of companies has not yet occurred in large volume, but there is a greater demand for information through these spaces than a year ago”, Zea adds.
“People associate coworking with self-employed workers and this is not the case in Spain or in the rest of the world,” says Bassons. “Now the main client are companies that come with between 25 and 100 workers to use these spaces,” he adds. In his case, the fact that some of these companies were related to the action to stop the coronavirus allowed them not to completely close their offices during confinement.