Co-working spaces thrive in the post-Covid period

Faith Nyongesa

WOJO Africa growth lead Faith Nyongesa during the interview in Upper Hill Nairobi.

The shift in work dynamics was one of the many changes necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic. From remote working to virtual meetings such as Zoom, the work environment changed significantly during and post-pandemic. One such concept that has been on the rise is co-working spaces.

“One of the biggest lessons drawn from the pandemic was the need for community and flexible workspaces,” says Faith Nyongesa, growth lead at WOJO in Kenya, a co-working space based at the Mercure Hotel in Upper Hill, Nairobi.

Co-working spaces are communal work environments that provide individuals with a shared space to work on their projects or businesses. These spaces offer a variety of amenities, such as Wi-Fi, printer access, coffee, and a collaborative atmosphere.

“WOJO as a brand has its roots in Europe, mostly France. The idea behind the company was to create a flexible workspace for freelancers, people travelling for business, multinationals, or small companies such as start-ups. We then combined it with hospitality to create a concept of ‘workspitality’, a first for Kenya and Africa.”

Small businesses

Ms Nyongesa says the idea behind a co-working space in a hotel was to improve business for the facilities and create convenience for users.

“Take someone doing a remote job, for instance, a small start-up with about 12 employees or a multinational company with offices in various locations. Instead of working from home where there might be distractions, or going through the hustle of finding an office space to rent and cater for services such as printing, cleaning, internet, security, et cetera, we provide you with a ready office. Everything is managed for you, and all you do is walk in with your laptop, plug in and work,” she says.

Ms Nyongesa says WOJO and Mercure, owned by the Accor Hospitality Group, seek to give more value to the client. “On top of the basic co-working amenities, you also get to access the hotel amenities such as the gym and pool for free, and you get 15 percent off on all other services.”

Ms Nyongesa says while initially they thought most of the clients would be small businesses and multinationals, they have also been approached by institutions such as banks and insurers.

Virtual package

“Traditionally, banks would be housed in several floors or an entire office building. While a co-working space might not be practical for the entire institution, we are experiencing shifts when it comes to smaller teams, for instance, marketers. Having them in a space like WOJO provides them with an ideal space for meeting with clients, as well as enhances teamwork and collaboration.”

She says they offer several packages, based on the needs of a client. The first one is the enterprise package for businesses.

Once you sign a contract with them, they can do branding in the office space and customise it to suit your needs. For a private office of five to 12 people, the rates are between $2,000 and $4,800. For an individual, the rate is $20, $80, and $250 for daily, weekly and monthly payments, respectively.

The company also offers meeting rooms charged between $20-$30 per hour, as well as a virtual package, where a business mostly transacts online but may need an occasional meeting venue or a physical address.

Profit-making entity

Smith Muteti, general manager at Mocha City Hotel and co-working spaces says as a profit-making entity, hotels are always looking for business.

“Traditionally, hotels would have conference rooms, but not dedicated work areas. There was, therefore, a gap even before the onset of Covid-19, which significantly changed working dynamics and the reimagining of business models for hotels.”

Mr Muteti, whose business is located at the HH Towers within the Nairobi central business district, says identifying this gap enabled them to custom design their spaces while setting up the new highrise tower.

“The market we had in mind was people in transit, say like someone on a one-week work trip, and start-ups. So even while coming up with the pricing model, we had to bear this in mind, and have rates that were favourable to such a demographic. For our co-working spaces, we charge Sh1,000 for four hours and Sh1,200 for a day. This is fairly affordable, given we take away the hustle of setting up an office, and then having to make quarterly rent payments and half a year’s deposit while moving in. We also have private office space, meeting and boardrooms (including an executive one), accommodation and a restaurant,” he says.

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