By Sunny Somaiya, co-founder, WellnessSpace
As we navigate what working life and office spaces will look like in a post-pandemic world, one thing is certain — they will not be the same as before.
With many companies realizing during the pandemic that their employees can be just as or even more productive working from home, demand for office space may remain low for the foreseeable future. Remote work should thus continue to be a popular option.
However, for businesses that require office space but face unprecedented uncertainty about their futures, renting traditional office space may not be the best solution. This is particularly true for private medical and wellness practices, and that is where coworking spaces come in.
Coworking spaces have been around for many years and are undergoing a transformation of their own. They provide a great middle-ground choice for businesses that are looking for spaces but want to increase flexibility and avoid signing long-term leases.
While traditional coworking spaces appeal to entrepreneurs and business owners, niche coworking spaces have risen in popularity in recent years to meet the demands of specific individuals. Medical and wellness coworking spaces represent a new breed that satisfy an unmet demand for flexible office space for private practice owners.
In Houston, for example, there are many office buildings currently underutilized due to COVID-19. As such, medical coworking space providers have become key tenants in supporting occupancy rates. Unlike many traditional office users, medical tenants require face-to-face interaction with their customers. Office space remains an essential part of medical practices, and a flexible office solution is perfect for them during these challenging times.
Many private practitioners have been displaced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Medical coworking spaces have helped them reopen their practices without the financial and operational burdens of occupying large office spaces.
These spaces provide the support and community that private practitioners need to get on their feet when starting their own businesses and serve as incubators for small practices.
Office landlords with longer-term views are eager to fill vacancies with medical and other niche coworking uses. This eagerness stems from the understanding that eventually these practices will outgrow the coworking spaces and become candidates to expand into their own, larger spaces within the office building. Medical and wellness practices tend to be sticky tenants, preferring to stay at the same address to maintain patient continuity, which also bodes well for office landlords.
While landlords and operators are currently reassessing the traditional coworking model, medical coworking appears to have a place in the office market. The 65-and-older demographic continues to grow, currently making up 16.5 percent of the population, according to the 2019 Census American Community Survey.
As more baby boomers reach the 65-plus age bracket, the demand for medical practitioners will continue to expand. This growing cohort will drive demand for practitioners and, consequently, demand for medical office spaces and medical coworking spaces.
Houston again exemplifies these trends in action as the home of the largest medical center in the world, with over 85 hospitals and over 8 million patient visits per year. With the city’s entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to providing innovative healthcare, Houston is a no-brainer for medical coworking spaces.
Medical coworking spaces ease access to real estate for practitioners by providing affordable, plug-and-play rental solutions. Lowering these initial costs can provide a boost in the
long-term financial health of these businesses. This allows practitioners to adjust as the needs of their practices evolve, whether they are just starting, growing or scaling back and moving into practicing part-time.
Concepts like WellnessSpace cater to medical providers and wellness practitioners such as therapists, nutritionists, chiropractors, acupuncturists and more. As office landlords in Houston and beyond continue to struggle to fill vacancies, medical coworking spaces have emerged as a unique and vital option during this pandemic that should remain in demand for many years to come.
— WellnessSpace is a Houston-based firm that provides flexible, rentable workspace solutions for medical users.