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Coworking spaces are still on the rise, regardless of WeWork mistakes

(BUSINESS NEWS) Coworking spaces are taking the world by storm, WeWork may still be good for some but not all. But the smaller companies have what you need too.

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Last week, we shared a story on the sudden decline of coworking “giant” WeWork. In case you haven’t had a chance to read it yet (I highly recommend it as it sheds some serious light on the topic) the TLDR gist of the story is that the company has very quickly declined from a $47 billion company to an $8 billion one. That said, their drop in value has resulted in a need to offload assets, such as a variety of coworking companies it recently purchased – some as recent as this year.

Despite the company’s obvious failures, according to a recent coworking survey by Clutch, WeWork is still pretty popular. When surveyed against 5 other possible choices, the company took the top spot, with 39% of respondents said they work from a WeWork location.

But watch out WeWork! In the same poll, 36% of people (only 3% less than WeWork) are opting for local spaces for their coworking needs. So what does this mean for the coworking landscape in 2020? Clutch found some really interesting data that may give us some clues into what the future of coworking may look like.

Our first trend is that coworking spaces are seemingly favored by business who prefer to be involved in their local community and offer community-based perks. This is something that niche spaces, like Enterprise Coworking, owned by Focus Property Group in Denver, Colorado, are capitalizing on.

Andrew Schuh, a marketing specialist at Focus Property Group, says that local Denver businesses tend to be drawn to their coworking space and that “being local and involved in local events and forming partnerships with local businesses has really helped us. We have a local touch that WeWork doesn’t have.”

But are other local businesses and employees around the globe following suit? We’ve found that whether or not you’re with a company or single employee, the decision to go with a larger space, vs. a smaller, local space, really comes down to a couple things: the size and type of company you work for and your company’s policy on remote working.

For example, if you are a freelancer and you do not have a dedicated space to work in, assuming you have the amount of work that warrants a coworking membership, logic would say that you may want to go with a larger space like WeWork – one with more amenities (which we’ll discuss later in the story). However, being a freelancer also means that you’re probably the one paying for the space, so both actual need and budget can be very real concerns. These concerns may force you in the direction of a local company, vs. a large company like WeWork.

On the other hand, if you are part of an organization that pays for, or subsidizes your remote workspace (lucky you!), you may very well have the means to go with a larger space like WeWork.

Another trend that certainly plays a role in the 2020 landscape is in relation to company policy. It’s important to mention that many, but not all, larger companies have restrictions when it comes to remote working. Some businesses may completely disallow remote working, while others may only offer the ability to work out of the office a few days a week.

Clutch goes on to point out that if a company has more than 100 employees, it’s more likely that their employees visit their coworking space the majority of the week. They found that 53% of employees from larger companies spend 5 or more days per week at their remote office of choice.

In the same vein, Clutch found that if a company has less than 10 employees, only 29% of employees spend the majority of their time at their coworking office. This likely correlates somewhat with what we mentioned before: smaller companies are less likely to prioritize private office expenses, typically based on budget, need, and policy. It can certainly also have something to do with the job you’re in and whether or not the position supports remote work.

Schuh says “The majority of members use the space most days, but there are the smaller businesses that come in fewer days per week…our larger members are definitely here full-time, though.”

Now, another trend that may have an impact on the future of coworking is in relation to plans and contracts. Larger companies tend to stick with coworking spaces for at least a year. We speculate the reasons are both growth-related and budget-related. In a small company, month-to-month is often a great option as it offers flexibility. However, medium and larger companies frequently go with annual plans, which may be subsidized and offer a stable work environment for their employees.

For instance, TrustPilot, a well known review-gathering service and platform, is Enterprise Coworking’s largest member, with 72 out of 800 employees working at the Denver space. All Denver-area employees exclusively work out of Enterprise as it offers them both stability and flexibility. The company has a suite-plan (vs. a desk membership), meaning they can work anywhere they’d like in the office. They also recently signed a 5-year contract with the space, saying that they have no plans to move, even as they grow.

Contracts such as these support small to mid-sized businesses who are on the right track, growth-wise, and are looking to increase their footprint long-term.

The final trend we’ll discuss today is all about amenities. Coworking spaces aren’t just for working. They’re for playing, too!

Many coworking offices come with a wide array of services and perks. Clutch found that 39% of coworking spaces have recreation rooms, for example (Enterprise being included in that statistic). Game rooms like these can have a direct impact on job satisfaction and productivity, which can prevent burnout. Enterprise’s recreational room, for instance, provides pingpong tables, shuffleboard, and Xbox access and helps to reduce daily work-related stresses for many employees. Actually, according to Clutch, about 60% of coworking employees are more relaxed at home since they started working at a coworking office.

Office Assistant, Holly Emmons, attests to this by saying “Our team loves pingpong…people take breaks from their busy days to destress for a few minutes and get away from their desks, so it is great having these types of spaces throughout the building.”

Another amenity that’s taking the industry by storm is wellness programs, and it’s no wonder why. After all, having healthier customers means more activity in the coworking space (more frequent visits, consistent payments, less cancellations, etc.), which means more revenue for the coworking space.

So, what does all this mean for coworking in 2020? With larger companies committing themselves to specific services, we predict that the coworking model will continue to be near and dear to both businesses and employees in the future. In this competitive market, it’s highly likely that many spaces will also continue bring in new tactics and amenities to rival giants and small businesses-alike.

So, without further adieu, let the coworking space wars begin!

Rachael Olan is a Texas-based Staff Writer at The American Genius and jack-of-many-trades. She's well known for her abilities in Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service, with a focus on SaaS and eCommerce businesses. Outside of writing, Rachael spends much of her time with her swarm of pets, including a 70 lb tortoise named Frankie.

Business News

Plastic bags are making a comeback, thanks to COVID-19

(BUSINESS NEWS) Plastic bags are back, whether you like it or not – at least for now.

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Single use plastic bags are rising like a phoenix from the ashes of illegality all over the country, from California to New York. Reusable bags are falling out of favor in an effort to curtail the spread of COVID-19. It’s a logical step: the less something is handled, generally, the safer it is going to be. And porous paper bags are thought to have a higher potential to spread the virus through contact.

It’s worth mentioning that single use plastic bags are considerably more
environmentally efficient to manufacture compared to paper, cloth, and reusable plastic bags. Per unit, they require very little material to make and are easily mass produced. It also goes without saying that they have a very short lifespan, after which they end up sitting in landfills, littering streets, or drifting through oceans.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s hard to deny that single use plastics have the potential to be as dangerous to humans as COVID-19. Coronavirus is a very immediate existential threat to us in the United States, but the scale of the global crises that stem from the irresponsible consumption of cheap disposable goods, also cannot be overstated. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t going anywhere. (And did you know that it’s just one of many huge garbage patches around the world?)

So… what exactly are we going to do about the comeback of plastic bags? Because to be honest, I used to work in grocery retail, and it is difficult and often unrewarding. So, I wouldn’t exactly love handling potentially contaminated tote bags all day in the midst of a pandemic if I were still a supermarket employee. You couldn’t pay me enough to feel comfortable with that – forget minimum wage!

I used to have a plastic bag stuffed full of other plastic bags sitting in my kitchen, like American nesting dolls, before disposable plastics fell from grace. (I’m sure some of y’all know exactly what I’m talking about.) This bag of bags was never a point of pride. It got really annoying because it just kept growing. There are only so many practical home uses for the standard throw-away plastic shopping bag. Very small trash can liners; holding snarls of unused cables, another thing I accumulate for no reason; extremely low-budget packing material; one could get crafty and somehow weave them into a horrible sweater, I guess.

I don’t miss my bag of bags. I don’t want to have to deal with another. Hey, Silicon Valley? Got any disruptive ideas for this one?

Even if we concede that disposable plastics are a necessary evil in the fight against COVID-19, the fact remains that they stick around long after you’re done with them. That’s true whether you throw them out or not.

I’m not trying to direct blame anywhere. Of course businesses should do their best to keep their customers and staff safe, and if that means using plastic bags, so be it. Without clear guidance from our federal government, every part of society has been fumbling and figuring out how to keep one another healthy with the tools they’ve got at hand. (…Well, almost every part.)

The changes to the state bag bans have been cautious and temporary so far, which is a small relief. But nobody really knows how much longer the pandemic will rage on and necessitate the relaxations.

I won’t pretend that I have a sure solution. All I can really ask is that we all be extra mindful of our usage of these disposable plastic products. Let’s think creatively about what we might otherwise throw away. We must not trade one apocalypse for another.

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Business News

Scammers are taking advantage of the unemployed

(BUSINESS NEWS) In a country that’s been stricken by higher-than-ever levels of unemployment, scammers have found a unique way to target this vulnerable demographic.

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With unemployment rates reaching unprecedented levels in recent months, it’s a fairly safe bet to say that there’s something that many of us currently have in common: we need a job. While these levels are slowly starting to decline, already down to 11.1 percent in June from an all-time high of 14.7 percent in April, the need for steady gainful employment is still great for many Americans. That’s what makes the newest scam making its rounds particularly vile.

There’s a common misconception that people who get scammed largely deserved their misfortune. Whether it’s presumed that they got greedy, they fell for something that was too good to be true, or they were looking for an easy way out, it’s both unfair and unkind to make these snap judgements of victims of scammers. When it comes to scammers, there’s only one party to blame for these wrongful actions — the scammers themselves.

And with literally millions of people looking for a job right now, these scammers have found a new round of susceptible people to target. It’s a fairly well documented fact that scammers have a knack for knowing who will be easy prey, and this latest scam is no different. According to a report from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), scammers have ramped up their efforts to separate desperate job seekers from what’s left of their meager funds.

This scam is nothing new, but it has surged in popularity with the sheer number of people looking for jobs in today’s economy. Dubbed the “employment scam,” it can take on many forms, but the end result remains the same. At the end of the day, if a person is bilked out of their money, then the scammer has won.

What does this scam look like, and how can you safeguard yourself from falling prey to it? Please note that anyone — from all walks of life, no matter your age, your sex, your race, or any other factor — can become a victim of a scam. The only way to protect yourself is to be aware of the scam and recognize the signs of it. If a potential employer asks any of the following of you, then there’s a good chance they’re a scammer:

  • You are required to pay the so-called employer for your own training up front.
  • You are expected to give up your banking/personal info for a credit check.
  • You are overpaid by a fraudulent check and told to wire back the difference.
  • You are told that you need to pay for expensive equipment to work from home.

Please note that these scammers can spoof legitimate companies. They may try to pass themselves off as real-deal businesses; they’ve even tried to emulate the BBB itself. And when you refuse to follow through with their demands, they will double down and might even become hostile and aggressive, resorting to threats and cajoling. It’s important to not cave in; once they start bullying you, they know the gig is up.

The BBB also notes that coronavirus has created a “perfect storm” for scammers, but there are a few things you can do to protect yourself. They advise that you avoid social isolation, as that can make you more vulnerable to scammers. When in doubt, seek out a friend’s feedback. Sometimes a reality check can make all the difference in whether or not you become a mark. Do a little bit of digging online before you accept an “offer” or share personal information. And finally, be prudent. No matter how many warnings the BBB puts out each year about scams, the only person who can really protect you from getting scammed is just one person…yourself.

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Business News

American Express’ cash back program helps members support small businesses

(BUSINESS NEWS) Between now and September 20th, AMEX is providing $50 in credits to their cardholders to support local businesses.

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It’s no secret that coronavirus has been nothing short of devastating for small businesses. Even with the Small Business Administration (SBA) offering financial relief in the form of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), many small businesses are still struggling to keep their doors open. So far, the numbers have been astronomical — to the tune of some 100,000 small businesses closing down permanently, according to a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research — and they’re expected to continue to rise as the pandemic drags on.

With that in mind, American Express has come forward with their own disaster relief program of sorts. Between now and the 20th of September, the credit card company will be offering a cash back rewards incentive for their cardholders. The program is fairly simple and straightforward: for every $10 (or more) that you spend at a small business, Amex will give you a $5 statement credit on your account. This can be repeated up to ten times, for a total of $50 in rewards. Not bad, huh? But the question remains: what’s a mere $50 in the grand scheme of things, and will it actually help out small businesses in the long run?

Well, first and foremost, $50 is no small chunk of change. For most of us, it’s a fairly decent perk, especially since it requires us to do what we would have done anyway (shop at local businesses). Whether you feel like getting takeout from your local mom-and-pop restaurant, you’re going to pick up a few groceries for dinner tonight at your corner market, or you need to take Fido in for a checkup at your neighborhood veterinary clinic, these activities all count toward the reward program. You’re literally getting paid for shopping locally. Easy peasy.

And secondly, historic data does prove that these incentives do work. Amex rolled out their first small business reward program back in 2010, called Small Business Saturday®, as a response to the mass consumerism of Black Friday. In 2015, the SBA decided to get in on the fun and joined forces with Amex, sponsoring the program. Even better, a study from 2019 revealed that a whopping $19.6 billion was funneled back into local economies thanks to the initiative. So while “just” $50 may not seem like much, it adds up to impressive numbers when seen from a more macroscopic perspective.

This isn’t the only program that has Amex’s name standing behind it, either. The company is also the driving force behind the Stand for Small program, which unifies larger businesses who are offering their own helping hand to smaller businesses. Whether you’re looking for assistance in managing your expenses, or you’re in need of help in growing your online presence, the Stand for Small program was designed to help make this possible. Large names like Amazon and eBay are included in the ranks that have rallied behind Stand for Small, lending clout to this program.

So what’s a little extra $50? Is it worth it to you? Sure, the intentions of some of these companies may be somewhat less than magnanimous — there’s no arguing that there’s something in it for them, as well — it doesn’t change the fact that in an economy that’s been crippled by COVID-19, they’re actually doing something instead of just sitting there idly and waiting for someone else to take action.

That, at least, has to be worth something. And if you’re wanting to get your hands on a share of the cool fifty bucks courtesy of Amex, they’d like to remind you that you do need to enroll in the rewards program no later than July 26. If you don’t, you may miss out on your opportunity to help keep small businesses afloat (while also enjoying an extra $5 in your pocket here or there), courtesy of American Express.

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