Zoom, third places, and the coronavirus

While working remotely for the past 10 years I spend a lot of time in apps like skype – which we now replaced with zoom – to communicate with our clients and team members around the world.

But also for companies closer to home, it’s getting more usual to set up a zoom meeting, instead of meeting for a coffee.

The biggest reason to do this? It saves a lot of time.

The state of remote work in 2020

Last week Angel list & Buffer published their annual research on remote work. Some numbers don’t change: remote workers almost unanimously want to continue to work remotely (at least for some of the time) for the rest of their careers:

One other thing that I can relate to is that co-working spaces might not be as popular for people working remote;

In the past three years, we haven’t seen more than nine percent of respondents claim that coworking spaces are their primary location for working. Coworking spaces were only selected by 7% of respondents as their primary work location (see chart #7), which is surprising, considering that some reports say that in the next two years there will be nearly 26,000 coworking spaces around the world. In 2018 alone, over 2,000 new coworking spaces opened their doors. [read more]

I think it has something to do with the inflexibility of having one other main place and that co-working spaces are in most cases playgrounds for older people, and especially with the open floor plans, it’s hard to get some work done.

The rise of third places

The vast majority of remote workers work from home. It’s the new HQ which you can design yourself and optimize for productivity. But staying at home can get boring, which may result in less creativity.

That’s why we see the rise of third places. Starbucks is a modern example of a third place. This is a public place that helps people get through the day or allow them to gather.

I think hotel lobbies will be a favorite new third place for remote workers. In most cases, hotel lobbies are now useless (empty) spaces, but they have a huge opportunity to turn into ‘co-working’ spaces. Hotel guests and business travelers are a direct target group, and local people can easily learn about these new spots in their city. Besides hotel lobbies, public libraries are a great place to get some work done. Important qualities of third places are:

  • cleanliness
  • aroma
  • adequate lighting
  • comfortable furniture
  • A view outside
  • Well designed environment

From personal experience, most hipster coffee shops don’t score well on this checklist. For the simple reason; bad chairs and personal space are very limited. Hotel lobbies and libraries are doing much much better.

A black swan event?

The corona outbreak seems to have a huge impact on the world. Large cities in China are in lockdown, events are being canceled and people are traveling less. With the result, we have to set up online conference calls.

Zoom (a conference tool) stock has an impressive outbreak; it’s is up more than 50% year-to-date, massively outperforming its peers in the Software ETF.

In China students will now study online because of the coronavirus has shut down schools:

China has launched a national cloud learning platform and started broadcasting primary school classes to ensure the country’s 180 million students can still keep learning even though schools are closed, according to state-run news agency Xinhua. A new school semester, scheduled to start today, has been postponed indefinitely as part of measures to combat the coronavirus. China authorities have encouraged people to stay at home to help reduce its spread.  [read more]

The big question is, will the coronavirus have a long term impact on the remote work trend and E-learning industry?

Nobody knows. Only time will tell.

But it’s an interesting question; how an event like this will affect the globalization, how we work and make products.