Father and entrepreneur Nick Donnelly was just scaling up his app, WorkClub, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. He tells us how he got through it.
The WorkClub app has a very straightforward premise – to give people who work remotely the option of working from settings other than their homes, like local pubs or restaurants. When venues shut during the pandemic, founder Nick Donnelly (pictured left) and his team had a rethink. Rather than put everyone on furlough, they created GiveLocally, a free-to-use online marketplace that connects local businesses with people who are working from home, allowing them to buy a gift card or voucher to use at a later stage. Its aim was to help those companies hurt by the commercial impact of Covid-19.
Eighteen months on, we caught up with Nick to find out how it’s going.
The last 12 months have certainly been interesting. Up until 17 May this year, we were very limited with what we could do. Before this date, indoor bookings could not take place and therefore 75% of our network of venues were closed. GiveLocally was short-lived, but it played an important role in helping evolve the team into the lean, mean, fighting machine it is today. We had to learn to work together in this new world, nearly 100% remote and GiveLocally gave us purpose when our core business was unable to operate. Since indoor bookings were allowed again, bookings have increased and continue to do so.
At times it was a nightmare, but for the most part, we’ve had a great time. We count ourselves lucky to be honest, as we heard so many stories about people losing their entire livelihoods due to the global pandemic.
Exactly! GiveLocally was more than just a platform that supported our venue partners during the lockdown, but it also allowed the new team to work on something together, that was operating in a real-world environment.
The world of work has undoubtedly changed. Working near home has become the third option, sitting in between working from home and going back to the office. According to one study of over 2,000 UK office workers, up to half (42 per cent) would like to work near home in a serviced office or co-working space as well as working in their main office.
WorkClub has been built around this notion of helping people work close to home. Our membership offers hundreds of drop-in workspaces across the UK, offering the best prices on the market, all wrapped up into an easy-to-use app!
Remote working is here to stay in the form of hybrid working. With a distributed workforce, the focus will be on facilitating collaboration while enabling high-quality remote access – whether that be to a central office or a remote workspace.
We are adjusting to make sure that we provide quality workspaces that enable our users, our clients employees, to reliably work in a productive environment. This is a top priority of WorkClub.
On 17 May, indoor bookings were allowed again. This meant that after 18 months of closures, we were finally back in business! In the first week, booking numbers were in double digits and people were converting from free users to our paid plan. Finally, after months of anxiously waiting for venues to reopen, our platform was alive!
My style of work has certainly changed. Throughout the multiple lockdowns, I had the opportunity to become regularly involved with the caregiving side of things. Usually I didn’t see this side of life, as I was out and about, working between multiple locations. But the pandemic forced us to work differently and now I intend to fit work around life, rather than life around work.