Shared workspaces continue to grow in demand, as the industry shifts to meet the expectations of millennials. For many years, these flexible working arrangements have been a staple of startups and incubators.
Speaking with Panny Lawrence, Founder and CEO of WorkSpace Commerce, we learned a new development: Global corporations are dabbling with this style of workspace as well.
What could major corporations stand to gain from such a practice?
According to ShareYourOffice.com, the shared workspace industry is expected to balloon to 30,000 coworking spaces with five million members by 2020.
According to the “2018-2022 Coworking Forecast” report by Emergent Research, “We…think the U.S. market will likely accelerate again in a few years due to larger corporations embracing coworking. But, we think it will take a few years for large corporations to meaningfully move to coworking. So over the next couple of years growth will be driven by coworking’s traditional customers, independent workers, and startups.”
Furthermore, Lawrence explains that “as knowledge-based, technology-enabled, mobile work becomes more important, coworking and flexible shared workspaces ought to become the intelligent solution for companies to help employees achieve a work-life balance, while helping them remain connected to their organization.”
He notes that coworking is now shifting from traditionally being a work-focused environment for SMEs and incubators or start-ups, to being flexible and cost-effective office spaces for established and blue-chip companies.
“Global corporations are now looking into the coworking approach and how it benefits both employees and employers alike; who find that their teams are more productive and motivated if allowed to work in a coworking environment,” he continues.
Indeed, the benefits of coworking and flexible working have been documented often in recent years. In a 2018 study by IWG, the research firm found that businesses that offered flexible working strategies to their employees saw their productivity rise to 82%, up from 75% in 2013, whereas business growth shot up to 89% – up from 67% in 2016.
ShareYourOffice also elaborates on the tangible benefits.
“Corporations can reduce overhead costs by moving into shared workspaces rather than leasing their own buildings,” they said. “ shared workspaces are full of freelancers and independent professionals. As more corporations hire contract workers as opposed to full-time employees, they need a pool of talent to choose from. The professional networks that exist in shared workspaces offer an in-house contractor pool for companies to work with as needed.”
“From a consumer perspective, a CBRE study discovered that workplaces are increasingly designed and managed less as static backdrops to work in and more as “hotel-style” facilities where “guests” demand a high level of service and experience,” WSC’s Lawrence noted.
This move to a “hotel guest” experience is an interesting one. It is likely intended to boost employee morale, the same way Google does through their colorful, engaging workspaces and facilities.
“Keeping this in mind, we expect to see property developers and operators experimenting with additional offerings to target niche communities and offer new services. This will mean a single piece of commercial real estate will be used differently to house multiple services as extra income sources,” Lawrence continued.
What is the ideal coworking environment like?
We asked Lawrence what he thinks constitutes an ideal coworking environment.
He said: “Coworking has definitely evolved and now requires more than just offering a space to work in; it is a lifestyle. Hence, offerings such as all-day coffee, super high-speed Wi-Fi, comfortable communal areas and even kitchen facilities are not considered perks anymore but rather the norm nowadays. ‘Work-life’ balance is at the forefront of what we do , as we aim to positively impact the lives of our members and their communities. Our offerings are customized to suit the needs of the local community; be it a highly creative scene, or one rooted in technology.”
Interior design also plays a major role in crafting the perfect coworking experience.
“With regards to spatial and interior design, our spaces are on-trend and open planned, specifically designed to be transformable to suit workshops, lectures, brainstorms and breakout sessions. Our communal areas function as ‘living rooms’, where people can relax, hang-out or work informally throughout the day. We also have ‘hanging bubble chairs’ that provide a unique seating option as a place to work or chill for members.”
A similar ideology is seen with Google’s approach to workspaces, which earned the tech giant Comparably’s ‘Best Company Culture’ Award for 2018. If it’s working for Google, then corporations have got something to learn here. Coworking spaces and flexible working are here to stay.