You walk into this bright, cozily arranged room with colorful couches and bean bags thrown around, looking for inspiration and some new business ideas. Soft music plays in the background, there’s cool graffiti on the walls, free, unlimited flow of coffee and cookies and a group of people who share the same interests-what’s not to feel charged? In fact, the energy in the room makes you feel so fresh and enthusiastic that you’re ready to take on anything. Then, just as you’re on your zillionth cup of coffee, a Eureka moment strikes and you are hit with an idea so brilliant that it could change your life, not to mention work, business and everything thereafter. Think you’re dreaming?
Not at all. Welcome to co-working spaces- offices of the future!
Co-working spaces are a becoming growing trend, as people seem to increasingly recognize the benefits of working in comfortable, relaxed surroundings that remind them of home. Indeed, the traditional formal, serious and structured office spaces are fast giving way to these flexible, cost-effective, tech savvy work spaces of the future.
A survey done by Small Business Labs for 2018-2022 titled ‘Global Co-working Forecast’, predicts that there will be a rapid growth of co-working spaces over the next 5 years, growing from 14,411 in 2017 to just over 30,000 in 2022. The study also predicts that the number of co-working members will grow from 1.74 million in 2017 to 5.1 million in 2022.
How did it begin?
According to a blog titled ‘Co-working Resources’, software engineer Brad Neuberg is credited with starting the first co-working space in 2005 in San Francisco. There are, however, many who say that ‘Hackerspaces’ (community-based not-for-profit workspaces for people with common interests) such as C-base, founded in Berlin in 1995, were the first co-working spaces in the world. These were then followed by a company called ‘West 24’ which arrived in New York City in 1999, with flexible desks for groups as well as individuals.
What are the benefits?
One of the most fundamental benefits of co-working is the flexibility it offers compared to traditional office spaces,” say Hamza Khan and Omar AlMheiri, co-founders of Let’s Work. “Companies, especially SMEs, can essentially “subscribe” to workspaces on demand as opposed to taking on long term leases. This means that scaling up and scaling down a team can be done with relative ease – they can, for example, simply sign on for another membership or cancel an existing desk membership based on their needs. This in turn can make a significant impact on cost too, when considering office space in prime locations. For small teams or entrepreneurs who are just starting up their businesses, expensive rent (and the associated fit-out and running costs) are neither feasible, nor healthy,” they add.
That’s not all. Working in a relaxed, comfortable manner reduces stress, enhances productivity, encourages creative thinking and promotes a healthier workforce.
“Stress at our workplace can occur out of a large number of facets like a disagreement with immediate seniors, extended work pressure, office politics, mandatory official obligations which are quite adverse for a healthy mental state and so on. From this perspective working in a co-working space is a lot better idea. A co-working space has all the benefits of working in a proper corporate and a commercial set up like the provision of a proper workplace, provision of official equipment and gadgets and even personal freedom and space,” says a blog titled ‘Empowerers-The Co-working city’.
How it plays out in Dubai
In the UAE, co-working spaces are increasingly being used by ‘digital nomads’- a term used to signify freelancers, entrepreneurs, start-ups and small groups of people on low budgets, that would like to use a flexible space to get work done. As creativity and innovative thinking take centrestage in the country, the need for flexible work areas and comfortable, easy surroundings have also grown. “The creative, entrepreneurial and freelance side of Dubai has been growing steadily for some time, but it’s only been in recent years that there has been a real push to support and drive these industries forward,” says Mohammed Zaal, founder of Nasab, Dubai’s first membership-based workspace. “Companies and individuals are now more confident to explore new ways of working,” he adds.
The other side
Studies say that being physically absent from a formal office will lead to a strategic disconnect with the rest of the team, and so communication could become fragmented. There’s also the fact that you will have to sort out your computer-related tech hassles by yourself as and when they arise. Also, since you’re sharing the same Internet connection with several people, there could be data privacy and leakage issues and since you’re seated with a diverse group of people and not with a team working towards the same goal, the motivation might wane after a while.
However, it is clear that going forward, as the positive impact of ‘connection’, ‘innovation’ and ‘bonding’ on business outcomes are better understood by companies in the region, co-working spaces are likely to address these gaps and gather greater momentum to spur a whole new way of thinking and working.