Published February 08, 2022

Flexible commercial space marketplace Spacenow records 550% growth due to COVID


Written by Daniel Gunning

Member since Jul 7
Read time:
8 mins

27 August 2020

Spacenow today announced that its flexible commercial space marketplace has registered a surge in demand from business owners and individual workers looking for alternatives to long-term commercial space leases as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the pivot to remote working.

Since March 2020, Spacenow has recorded a +290% increase in new customers, and recorded a +550% increase in enquiries from both large corporations, SMBs, start-ups and sole traders looking for short term, modulable and Covid-Safe flexible office space options closer to home.

The platform has also surpassed 5,000 listings across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, with new listings added to the platform every day and customers including Canva, Uber Eats, Merivale, Stan, Allianz, Hoyts, and Woolworths.

Recruiting agency Real Time Australia has ditched its two Sydney & Melbourne offices, now fully reliant on Spacenow for all its commercial space needs.

“The current economic uncertainty and social distancing measures mean that large corporate offices and CBD areas across Australian cities will continue to lay dormant for a while. However, working for home every day for months on end isn’t a sustainable model for workers both from a workspace set-up and mental health perspective. There needs to be another model that supports this shift to remote and hybrid work, one that helps bring work closer to people’s homes, in a safe environment”, explained Daniel Gunning, CEO of Spacenow.

Spacenow has today launched Flexible Project Spaces, in partnership with Aussie professional cleaning services marketplace Whizz. It is part of a Covid-19 decontamination service.

With Flexible Project Spaces organisations from all sizes as well as individual professionals and workers can rent any type of space – whether it be a single desk, a meeting room, a full office floor, an event space, an offsite venue or more – by the hour, day, week or month depending on their changing needs.

The Decontamination Service uses a process called antimicrobial fogging which decontaminates touch points and creates a barrier that provides on-going surface protection for up to 28 days.

According to Anthony Pettiona, CEO, Whizz, “Spacenow is answering a growing need in the commercial space market as more organisations are looking to move to flexible working spaces. This is a trend we also see at Whizz and we believe it is vital for businesses and workers to know that they can safely transition to this new model with confidence. This partnership will be instrumental in helping more businesses become adaptable and build resilience in those difficult economic times.”

Gunning added, “The rise of those flexible, short-term commercial spaces is what will build resilience for both businesses and the property market. On one end it allows property owners to drive better utilisation and higher revenue from their property assets – we’re even seeing hotels transform their rooms into workspaces, while businesses on their end can find affordable solutions to the remote work conundrum, ultimately making consequent leasing savings that they can re-invest in what matters more to their business.”

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As COVID-19 reshapes the very definition of an office, there’s been a surge in demand for short-term, flexible lease options for businesses, according to marketplace startup Spacenow.

Founded in 2016, Spacenow allows users to rent out their office meeting rooms, event spaces and even ghost kitchens, through flexible, short-term arrangements.

It started out offering Airbnb-style rentals for traditional office-style spaces, allowing businesses to monetise spare desks and empty conference rooms, co-founder and chief Daniel Gunning tells SmartCompany.

As the business grew, it started working with co-working spaces and larger spaces for whole teams to enjoy offsite training, for example.

When the COVID-19 pandemic swept across Australia, things got “a bit patchy” for Spacenow, Gunning admits.

“It’s changed a lot.”

Since March, the startup has seen a 290% increase in new customers joining the platform, and a 550% increase in enquiries from businesses, including everything from huge corporations to small businesses, startups and sole traders.

Enquiries may have picked up, but these are all small transactions, he says. For obvious reasons, no one is organising all-hands events or large group meetings, he says.

“We haven’t seen as many of the bigger transactions that we were doing before.”

While business pretty much came to a standstill early on in the crisis, as businesses are tentatively moving back into the office, he’s seeing more businesses pivoting away from set commercial lease agreements, and looking for more flexibility.

“In some of our categories the numbers are really high, and in other categories, we’re very low,” Gunning says.

During the pandemic, the startup has expanded to offer short-term rental of ghost kitchens, as restaurants have closed and demand for takeaway food has ramped up.

More recently, it’s paired with hotels, which can offer up vacant hotel rooms as isolated office spaces, giving them an office away from home, but away from anyone else too. Already, the startup has signed up 100 hotels to the scheme.

“People can use the facilities, they can use the gyms,” Gunning says.

“It’s almost like a stay-cay … but a working getaway.”

And finally, Spacenow has forged a partnership with professional cleaning marketplace Whizz, to offer a decontamination service.

“We always wanted to think about what people need when they’re going to share space,” Gunning says.

“We always thought cleaning would be something they would want,” he adds.

Of course, the pandemic brought hygiene front and centre to clients’ demands.

“We had thought about it, but definitely the pandemic brought it on, and it made a lot more sense to actually develop that.”

Flexible lease options.

Flexibility is key

Ultimately, Gunning says the pandemic has shifted mindsets around workplaces. Managers have seen some of the benefits of allowing people to work from home, and offering them that empowerment.

But, he also predicts that, once it feels safe to do so, people may well want to return to the office, even if only for a couple of days a week.

“They will crave that interaction,” he says.

“But I think the efficiency of utilisation has become more front-and-centre for office space,” he explains.

“I think it’s going to become more of an interactive place … where you come to get together for team building, or you might be using it as a place to have some face-to-face.”

That means the footprint businesses need is likely to reduce.

“I do feel in time people will want to go back to some sort of way things were previously, but it’s going to take a lot of time.”

“From here on, companies will have to continue to give workers that choice of whether they want to come in or whether they don’t.”

There are benefits to being in the office that can’t be replicated at home. For example, a junior employee overhearing how someone more senior reacts to a tricky phone call, or a new hire integrating with their team through coffee machine chats and impromptu lunches out.

“Those things will be lost, and people will need that,” he says.

“You can’t get that over a Zoom meeting.”

There’s always going to be a need for office space, Gunning says. But it might look a bit different post-pandemic.

“Most people are wanting to take shorter lease terms and a flexible arrangement,” he explains.

There’s a demand for “that agility and ability to react or move with market changes — whether up or down,” he adds.

Whether they’re going to bounce back and scale fast within a few months, or whether it will be a while before they can make a significant financial commitment to anything, “flexibility is going to be key”, he says.

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Explore flexible lease options on Spacenow.