“I think that we just put rocket fuel in the spaceship. I think it’s ready, set, go,” exclaimed William Edmundson, Chief Operations Officer of Office Evolution, as he ponders the future of the coworking industry, post-pandemic.
While these unprecedented times have been challenging, saddening, and quite frankly, frightening, William and his team at Office Evolution have continually adapted to the changes of the ‘new normal’ in the coworking industry.
From its inception in 2003, to 17 years later in 2020, Office Evolution has always approached coworking from a unique, go-getting, and ever-changing perspective – truly putting the evolution, in Office Evolution.
But while the pause button has been pressed on the progress of many in the last few months, the global pandemic has brought one of Office Evolution’s main principles to the forefront of the company’s narrative.
In reading through Office Evolution’s core values, the sentiment of, “We’re all in this together,” immediately stands out.
“We’re all in this together,” a phrase that has been uttered by many, as we try to find the light at the end of the tunnel, together.
“We’re all in this together,” a phrase that parallels the Hawaiian word, “Ohana,” which Office Evolution writes, “… is used to describe a group of people fighting for the same purpose.”
“Our founder, Mark Hemmeter, is from Hawaii and we use the word, ‘Ohana,’” explained William.
“It can mean ‘family’ or ‘tribe’, it doesn’t necessarily have to be your brother or sister or your parents. It could mean people that you work with, it could be teammates, it could be whoever.”
While this speaks volumes to the company culture of Office Evolution, the spread of the novel coronavirus has firmed this concept of the company’s office family.
“What really stands out is our culture – it’s that we’ve got your back,” said William. “We all take care of each other, whether it be us in a corporate office taking care of our franchisee’s or the center’s that we own and operate. Or it could be our business center managers taking care of their members.”
Office Evolution has adopted a different model of business – a model that focuses on providing workspace options for solopreneurs and small businesses in centers that are locally owned.
“What really stands out about our brand is that we’ve got local ownership, but with a national reach. Having that individual franchisee that owns your center also carried a lot of weight.”
William was sure to note the significance of this local ownership during the pandemic where, “They are then correspondents with the members, and they would remind members that they’re a local businessperson too and it really cemented that relationship,” he explained.
“Being able to think about, oh, it’s not just some impersonal big company, Bob actually owns this place and Bob cares about my experience.”
While Office Evolution’s franchisees have continually worked to strengthen their relationship with members, its marketing team pulled together an inspirational social media campaign to unite franchisees, members, and Office Evolution’s corporate team alike.
“Our marketing department, lead by Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak, developed a strategy that brought our core values to life, bringing them to our members, to galvanize our base and to wrap our arms, virtually, around our Ohana,” explained William.
“They came up with a campaign designed for member retention and it’s exploding in social media right now,” he continued. “They thought, what can we do to perk our members up? They came up with this t-shirt – dreamers, risk takers, and doers.”
“During times like this, these businesses can’t lay people off to cut costs. Instead, they must double-down and work harder to keep their dreams alive,” continued William.
“They executed our ‘dreamers, risk-takers, and doers’ campaign to recognize the incredible drive and dedication that our members have shown over the last several months. Office Evolution wanted to acknowledge them and provide members with a platform to share their stories of how they are continuing to move forward.”
While the campaign has been a definitive nod to the resolve of Office Evolution’s steadfast members, it also helped these individuals connect with each other, even in times of uncertainty.
“They [the members] were so pumped up because they could all relate to that and that’s one thing that they all had in common during this pandemic – everybody not really sure what today is going to hold or what’s going to happen next,” said William.
“They all really grasped this idea of the dreamers, risk takers, and doers that we’ve had to get additional shirts. For them, to be able to wear it and be so proud to do that and identify with that. The bonding that’s come from that has far surpassed our wildest dreams.”
While Office Evolution has done an exemplary job in supporting their members through this social campaign, they have emulated this same commitment and resolve in supporting the members who have chosen to continue working from their respective Office Evolution location.
“We put out a standardized program across all of our locations and instead of just having the CDC poster plastered somewhere, we had branded signs with our colors and with a little more friendly language,” explained William.
“We put measures in place to take people’s temperatures and of course we have hand sanitizer and wipes, stationed throughout the centers,” he added. “We also did what a lot of people would think to do which is instead of the glassware, we have plastic cups and plates.”
In listing some of these practices and precautions, William noted that it wasn’t just the steps one takes to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but also the steps one takes to make members comfortable again in the new work environment.
“Part of it, is that your place can be as clean as can be, but you want your members to be comfortable,” he said. “You want to do the responsible thing with being sanitary and doing all of those things but at the same time you want the optics to remind your members that, ‘hey, these guys are looking out for me. They are taking this seriously.”
“We made a point of letting them know what we are doing and keeping them informed,” William added.
While Office Evolution remains committed to the health and safety of its members, the all-important, inevitable question of, ‘what does all of this mean to the coworking industry?’ was posed.
“Coworking is poised for growth as the pandemic lifts,” William confidently answered. “We are already seeing businesses of all sizes look for ways to adapt to the new workplace reality and we are confident that coworking will play a major role in the future of the office space.”
“Coworking brands like Office Evolution provide a solution because it allows employers to only pay for what they need,” he added. “Businesses won’t have to get caught up in an expensive lease for thousands of square feet. They may just need a conference room twice a week for meetings, or a workspace for two employees.”
As so much is, and has been uncertain in the last few months, it’s certain that, as William and Office Evolution said best, “We’re all in this together.”
Office Evolution joined Preferred Office Network in 2013 with a handful of locations in Colorado, and has since grown to over 80 locations across North America. We are appreciative of the longstanding partnership we have with the Office Evolution team.