Coworking is something new, like it still surprises you, what bringing together people can do. That is why I was very interested in it and wanted to start a coworking space, and that is what I value: the interaction with the people that are coming here daily and then seeing new projects, initiatives, partnerships, and friendships coming to life. Of course, you know the serendipity notion, mentioned in Society 3.0, and I agree with that, and I find it in my everyday life that is always true, that you always find information, new ideas, and knowledge. You always find connections. – Olga Paraskevopoulou Stone Soup Athens (The Powered by S2M Location in Greece).

Intro: Who am I?

Hello everyone! My name is Ricardo, and I am now an MBA graduate from Hotelschool The Hague. As part of my thesis in the form of a consultancy project, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Seats2Meet, from August till October 2020, to assess the coworking space industry’s viability in Greece and provide valuable advice to Seats2Meet, that will help them grow in Greece with a focus in Athens. From the very first moment, I started this project, I was aware that I needed to examine in-depth the local market namely, the customer trends, factors influencing the diffusion and acceptance of Seats2Meet in Greece, and how the competitive advantages of Seats2Meet can be capitalized in the local market. In this article, I would like to share my journey by working with Seats2Meet as well as the main lessons learned from the coworking space industry in Greece.

 

Coworking in Greece: What does coworking mean to Greek coworkers?

For Greek professionals, coworking is more than a place to work or meet other professionals, it’s the joy of working with others, build bridges among start-ups and entrepreneurs, create things that will have a positive impact on the economy, and meet people that we wouldn’t otherwise meet if we were in an office, or if we were working in a company’s office. For many years, the Greek economy has been heavily impacted through the political, economic, humanitarian, and now a health crisis. According to data published in Eurostat in June 2020, Greece holds the second largest unemployment rate among EU member states. Therefore, many young graduates and professionals, tend to shift to self – employment opportunities. To address this emergent trend, coworking spaces in Greece and in particular in Athens, have been flourishing to provide self-employed, freelancers and digital nomads, a haven to exchange ideas, foster open collaboration, help people grow and bring innovation to Greece, a moderate innovator, based on the annual European Innovation Scoreboards.

How did I excel in my mission?

To excel in my valuable mission, I’ve traveled to Athens, Greece where I’ve had the opportunity to meet the most important players in the industry, namely Maria Calafatis from The Cube Athens, Olga Paraskevopoulou from Stone Soup, and the Impact Hub Athens team. During September, I’ve met each one of them, listened to their success stories, learned a lot about the coworking space industry in Greece, and how COVID – 19, influences coworking. I’ve also spoken with many end-users of coworking spaces namely, digital nomads Athens from all around the world, who shared their stories and experience at coworking spaces in Athens and in addition, I’ve also distributed a survey specified to frequent users of coworking spaces as well as individuals who use third spaces (cafés, libraries or restaurants) to work. . My goal was to identify how end-users of coworking spaces in Athens interact within a space. Seats2Meet is about creating communities that can connect and empower each other to grow not only as a professional but also as an individual. Therefore, for me, it was very important to identify the interaction that takes place within coworking spaces in Athens, and identify ways for Seats2Meet to cater to the needs of the local market. Also, I’ve worked myself in many coworking spaces in Athens, recorded my observations, and compared them with my findings from my meetings.
What is a coworker in Greece actually looking for in a space?

After carefully analyzing all my research findings, the most common yet remarkable finding is that the community feeling is the main reason that attracts individuals to coworking spaces in Athens. In Athens, coworkers seek coworking spaces that are more personal than polished and technical workspaces. During the interviews with coworkers, it was apparent how coworkers value the community feeling that they get in coworking spaces in Athens. Namely, coworkers want to feel that they are a part of a community, eager to meet people and expand their network.

A remarkable finding was that the COVID – 19 situation does not influence the perception that coworkers in Greece have about visiting a coworking space. Coworkers exbibit a significant preference as they appreciate being around people, an element that all the respondents missed during the lockdown, and appears on the questionnaire’s open-ended question “what did you miss most about working in a co-working space during these time due to coronavirus?”. However, coworkers value security and aim to be careful when they are in a shared space. According to the coworkers’ interview insights, even if coworkers are comfortable visiting a coworking space, they follow all the coworking facilitators and local authorities’ recommendations. Enforcing the coronavirus regulations is imperative to increase consumer confidence as denoted by the questionnaire’s answers, where the respondents consider important the regulations enforced in the coworking spaces. Despite that coworker’s value community in coworking spaces, trust is essential to foster open collaboration and sharing of knowledge and expertise. Based on the insights provided by the interviews and questionnaires, coworkers in Athens tend to frequent the same coworking spaces, namely The Cube, Impact Hub, and Stone Soup, the most well-established coworking spaces in Athens. The insights provided by industry professionals illustrate that coworkers feel more comfortable sharing knowledge and expertise within their community.

 

What are the competitive advantages of Seats2Meet in the local market?

When it comes to the existing competitive advantages, Seats2Meet has many existing ones that will give them a competitive lead in the industry that they are operating. Specifically, the valuable data gathered from the end-user allows the organization and its partners to anticipate market and regulatory trends and competitive activity
Seats2Meet is all about adapting to the ever-evolving needs of the industry. During the past two months, I’ve worked closely with both of the founders Ronald van den Hoff and Marielle Sijgers, and one of the main lessons that I’ve learned is that Seats2Meet constantly anticipates the current challenges and adapts. As an example in 2020, Seats2Meet begun offering ‘’’ hybrid meetings’’ that are opened automatically when end-users book a meeting room via Seats2Meet. During my time in Athens, I’ve had the pleasure to meet Elena Kalimeris, community manager at Impact Hub Athens, where we’ve discussed the new upcoming trend “smart working’’ which means that no physical presence is required to produce work and be part of the rest of the team I’m collaborating with. Due to the strict COVID – 19 measures in Greece, this phenomenon has been more and more common in everyday Greek business life. In this case, Seats2Meet should leverage its existing capabilities in Greek business life.

 

What is next?

COVID – 19 brought many unprecedented humanitarian challenges in our lives. One thing is for sure and all coworking facilitators that I’ve interacted with support, normal will not be what we’ve used to before the pandemic. In the next months, there will be more and more change. As Maria Calafatis from The Cube Athens supports, people do not need to fear change, but instead, embrace and welcome it and find ways to be innovative and enjoy it. After the pandemic, everyone will be more at ease in adapting than before. If there is one thing that COVID – 19 taught us is that change happens minute – by – minute and one thing are certain that we will all emerge from this crisis stronger. Seats2Meet will be successful in Greece because of the need of connecting people and helping each other grow, which is the most valuable ingredient to emerge from this crisis. With the right partners who share the same vision and mission, Seats2Meet will be successful in the local coworking scene. Greece has been a country that has been through many crises in the past decade but yet, it always manages to emerge stronger because of the young generation who is more resilient and willing to take risks and innovate. An example of this is the many coworking spaces that have been emerged throughout the crisis and managed to become successful in the country.