The GCUC Online experience: Black Swan events, COVID 19 & the future of coworking

While the world has come to a sudden halt, businesses are working harder than ever to transition digitally and host meetings and events virtually. But hosting a full conference, surely not? Wrong, GCUC just did it, and it was great!

While we were unsure what to expect and slightly worried that a whole conference online may be slightly overkill and difficult to keep attendees fully engaged throughout - we were wrong. The GCUC  team shared brilliant, relevant content and kept participation high with breakout sessions; ensuring that there were still chances to network and spark interesting discussions with one another. 

The Black Swan event that is COVID 19 and the future of coworking were high on the agenda and in discussion topics. 

Steve King spoke about COVID 19 being a classic example of  ‘Black Swan event’. A Black Swan event can be defined as an event which has an extremely low probability of occurring but, when they do, they are highly impactful. The pandemic is an example of a black swan event because firstly, they are very rare (only 2 in the past 100 years) and secondly they have high impacts, including the recession that will follow. 

The idea of a Black Swan event comes from the 2007 book, ‘The Black Swan’ written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, although it initially derives from the second century, when a roman poet wrote about mythical beings. Black Swans, at that time, were mythical because they did not ‘exist’. However, when European explorers went to Australia, black swans were found to be very much real!

Steve King highlighted the complacency surrounding pandemics, despite having multiple warning signs (Ebola and SARS for example, which were successfully contained). The countries which reacted fast such as South Korea and Taiwan were much better prepared as a result of taking it seriously. 

What does this mean for the future of work?

Steve King discussed that many trends regarding the way we work were already at an incline - for example, remote working and digital transformation. Furthermore, these trends have been amplified from the pandemic - more and more companies are being taught that it is easier to integrate independent workers whilst promoting flexibility and agility. 

Steve concluded that even though short term effects on coworking spaces could be very negative due to social distancing measures in place, the rise of remote and independent working could lead to a strong future for spaces.

Although GCUC can’t predict the future, Liz Elam agreed that the future is bright. Liz, Carsten Foertsch and Jean Yves Huwart had a discussion on how they think COVID 19 will impact the future of coworking. They discussed how they expect to see a return of coworking and believe that it could mean the following:


  • Opening in phases

  • Wearing masks

  • Keeping social distancing measures (2m apart)


Other ideas included potentially putting disposable sheets on desks which are thrown away after each time someone uses the desk. Or, even implementing glass separators to keep coworkers apart as mentioned in the wired.com article -  The Cubicle Is Back. Blame (or Thank) the Coronavirus.

Liz Elam pointed out that this could be ‘coworking’s moment’; the industry will slow down for a few weeks and then come back roaring. Although many people and businesses have realised that they and their teams can work from home, some may not want to continue doing so after lockdown. Working from home may not be the most productive or effective for everyone, and we all get lonely at times, right? Coworking spaces can bridge this gap. 

However, Liz did point out that the biggest risk for spaces is if the members’ businesses do not survive the pandemic and therefore do not return to their coworking communities. Nevertheless, it’s our mission to support our businesses and communities to keep working hard to stay open and overcome the situation!



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