Coworking attracts Lebanese amid economic and energy crises
Beirut, Lebanon – Lebanese companies, freelancers and professionals are trying coworking spaces to cope with the financial and practical obstacles of the economic crisis.
The ripple effects of the country’s currency crash, banking crisis, and inability to import needed resources have led to rising rents, unaffordable and unreliable generators, and expensive transportation. Coworking spaces offer a solution.
“We are currently around 98% full and have been all year,” Kim Mouawad, senior community manager at Beirut Digital District, told Al-Monitor. According to Mouawad, the demand for coworking spaces has increased due to the need for reliable 24-hour internet and electricity.
Shared office spaces often include private offices, offices, conference rooms, break rooms, a mini-café, kitchen and bathrooms. They help Lebanese businesses and freelancers preserve jobs and generate fresh dollar income by working and partnering with companies abroad.
Coworking spaces were present before the financial crisis in Lebanon, but companies generally sought to rent private offices in buildings. However, acceptance is increasing recently as companies look for new approaches to survival.
Prices vary depending on location, service provided, size of business and length of engagement. For example, private office memberships range from $60 to $150 per month, and private offices range from $200 to $500 per month, in fresh dollars (dollars that have been transferred directly from overseas and are currently not available on Lebanese bank accounts).
Several companies established in Lebanon use coworking spaces because they have moved their market to other countries in the region. Foreign-based companies also use coworking spaces for their employees in Lebanon.
Ellie Msallem, director of Park Innovation, a coworking space in Semqanieh, Mount Lebanon, told Al-Monitor that the digital economy is thriving in Lebanon, as people receive payments in fresh dollars from foreign companies, and they prefer to work in coworking spaces.
“The goal is not just to improve the work experience; it’s to improve the whole experience,” Mssallem said. “We have a graphic design company, a software building company, a web development company and a digital human resources company, so there a diverse selection of businesses that use the space.
Mssallem has noticed an increase in demand for shared offices, meaning offices that people only use when they want to. Companies and NGOs, in addition to needing more offices, meeting rooms and conference rooms, are asking for more private offices.
People from all walks of life live together in Baddawi, a coworking space in Tripoli. Director Hussein Zeid said: “Tripoli really needs more office space due to its inadequate electricity and domestic facilities.” 70% of their customers are Lebanese and 30% are Syrians and Palestinians, Zeid said.
According to Zeid, young people in Tripoli use the studio to film visual content and collaborate with global companies, using their social media platforms for promotions. Additionally, he described how the coworking space has enabled a new project that helps local women who make handicrafts to sell and market their products professionally.
Mokhtar Itani, community manager of Olive Grove, a coworking space in the heart of Beirut, told Al-Monitor: “The demand for private offices is very high. We are fully booked and have twenty waiting lists, but maintaining stable electricity is becoming a challenge.
People who work for international companies in different time zones find coworking spaces very convenient, and therefore having 24-hour internet and electricity is crucial.
Ali Chocker, a computer engineer, told Al-Monitor, “Using a coworking space in Lebanon makes sense because my team and I work late to accommodate the work schedules of the American companies we serve.” Additionally, he said, the arrangement reduces his anxiety and loneliness while providing him with extensive networking opportunities.
Rania Hamedeh, founder of a local gastronomy start-up, told Al-Monitor that in addition to being practical and profitable, working together has helped her find partners such as a graphic designer, an expert in marketing and a social media professional. .