Working from home
For years, only a small share of professionals had the luxury and freedom to work from home. Despite the fact that working from home can save costs, increase productivity, and that new technologies make it easier than ever, it still did not get widespread traction.
Then the pandemic changed the rules. Instead of being a nice optional perk, work from home became an operational necessity. Businesses made whatever accommodations were necessary to support their homebound workers, and the results were striking: 94% of employers reported that their productivity remained the same or improved during the pandemic.
Now, most experts and business leaders expect that large-scale work from home will become a permanent part of the economic landscape. With such a massive work style shift comes opportunity.
One startup, called Nooka Space, is already capitalizing. Their story is a prime example of how the pandemic’s market-altering force can create fertile ground for innovation. Here’s what they’re doing and why their story should inspire other entrepreneurs.
Businesses are already beginning to make changes in anticipation of their employees expecting work-from-home flexibility. Some startups are closing down their offices altogether, while large companies are scaling back their office footprint and embracing a hybrid work style. As a result, commercial real estate prices have dropped.
It also means that workers need to prepare their home offices for permanent use. Yet for many, this is unrealistic. Not everyone has a dedicated office in their home, while others are prone to interruption. Despite the benefits of working from home, it’s not necessarily the ideal working environment
With coworking spaces closing down at a record pace and no company-provided office space available to them, some professionals have little choice but to make do any way they can. That’s where Nooka Space enters the picture, with a new approach to solving this problem.
The Nooka Space concept is a direct response to the changing work from the home landscape. They’re building a home-office-as-a-service platform with a network of self-contained, fully-equipped proximity office spaces, available to reserve via a smartphone app.
The system allows property owners to set up custom-built small office spaces on their premises in exchange for a monthly rental fee. Then, platform users can use the app to reserve spaces at any available nearby location whenever they need it. It’s like an Airbnb for remote workers.
Hosts can either use their new office space exclusively or make it available to the public by the hour or by the day. That way they can offset their home office costs and still have a private space to work in. Additionally, businesses can provide the units for their employees, which can offer a cheaper solution than maintaining permanent, scaled-down office spaces of their own.
One might think that the coworking is an industry entrepreneurs should veer away from. After all, more people are working from home, and coworking spaces are seeing record vacancies due to health concerns with some likely to close down.
However, Nooka Space saw an opportunity to create a new niche in the space. They invented a solution that sidesteps the issues that drove conventional coworking businesses to the brink of extinction and replaced it with one fit for the new normal.
They demonstrate that struggling industries often present unique opportunities. When you dive deep into why a space is struggling, you can find new ways to innovate. For example, when the pandemic shut gyms down, enterprising personal trainers found ways to do virtual home fitness classes and many expanded their customer base as a result.
Often when an event like the pandemic creates new opportunities, your window to take advantage can be small. Being a first or second mover can be a defining advantage. Nooka Space is already beginning to ship out its prefabricated office pods, having taken preorders for the units since January. This will help them scale up their network and begin operations while the world adjusts to a new normal.
If you have new ideas that seize upon unique events or changing trends, don’t hesitate to act on it. It may be your one and only opportunity.
I’m the cofounder of SOTA Partners, where we invest in companies changing the future of work and food. We also rapidly experiment and incubate new business ideas.