Coworking started as a fringe trend that was expected to fade as fast as it emerged. Several years later, the popularity of coworking has continued to grow rapidly.
Currently, there are over 14,400 coworking spaces all over the world.
It is estimated that by 2022, coworking spaces will be the workplace of choice for about 5.1 million people.
The increasing popularity of coworking spaces has been fueled largely by the increasing number of freelancers and remote workers.
NOTE: Anyone interested in learning more about coworking or leased offices at the DaVinci Institute in Westminster, Colorado, go to Colony Workspace and request a tour.
In case you are wondering what coworking spaces are, they are membership-based workspaces where the members work together in a shared, communal setting.
The members are as diverse as they can get – entrepreneurs, remote workers, freelancers, and other independent professionals.
Instead of the traditional office where everyone works for the same employer, people in a coworking space don’t belong to the same organization.
You can think of it as going to work in a coffee shop, only that coworking spaces are more professional.
They offer the suite of amenities that are usually associated with a traditional office, such as hot-desks, dedicated workstations and offices, meetings rooms, Skype rooms, a kitchen, free coffee, high speed internet, access to printers and copiers, and so on.
The growing popularity of coworking spaces is as a result of the culture and experience that is associated with these spaces.
Coworking spaces are associated with friendliness, fun, collaboration, productivity and inspiration. People who use coworking spaces as their primary workspace also just seem to thrive.
They are happier, more creative, more inspired, and more engaged in their work. This is more than a mere perception.
A study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior shows found that, when asked to report their levels of thriving, people who belong to coworking spaces rated averaged 6 points on a 7-point scale, which was higher than the average for employees who work in traditional office settings.
The Global Coworking Survey by Deskmag also unearthed information that is pretty hard to ignore.
According to the survey, 62% of the participants reported that their standard of work had improved after joining a coworking space, while 71% experienced a boost in creativity.
The survey, which involved 661 professionals from 24 different countries also found out that 85% of the participants felt more motivated when working out of a coworking space. Another 70% reported that they were ‘very happy’ working out of a coworking space.
There is a general view that people who work out of coworking space tend to thrive, with data to back it up.
The question is, what is it about coworking spaces that makes them better than the traditional office setup?
Below are some reasons why people thrive in coworking spaces.
- Most coworking spaces feel more like a close-knit community than a workplace.
- Each coworking space has its own unique culture and vibe and an atmosphere of friendliness.
- This connection with others is one of the major reasons why people join coworking spaces.
- The sense of community does not just happen. It is something that is carefully and deliberately crafted by the space managers.
- Most coworking spaces consider themselves as both workspace providers and hospitality companies. The managers know each member of the community by name and profession.
- They know other people within the community who might be beneficial to your business and facilitate introductions to these people.
- Most coworking spaces also hold regular events where members can interact, learn from each other and build friendships and relationships.
While the sense of community is there, interaction and socialization between members is not forced. Each member is free to choose how and when to interact with others.
You can walk to the café or coffee bar to have a chat with other members when you want, and if your wish is to be left alone so you can concentrate on your work, you can do just that.
Simply knowing that other members are available to chat and bounce off ideas with is enough for one to develop a strong sense of identity with the community.
In addition, since members do not belong to the same organization, interactions between members are freer and more relaxed, which enhances the sense of community.
Working out of a coworking space feels more like working amongst a bunch of friends rather than workmates.
Coworking spaces do not have any of the rigidity that comes with a traditional office.
Most coworking spaces provide 24 hour access, which gives members the flexibility to work whenever they want. If you need to pull an all-nighter to beat a looming deadline, you don’t have to worry about the office closing in the evening.
If you have commitments during the day, you can take the day off without a worry. Even if you decide to work from home, it’s all up to you; there are no repercussions.
This flexibility is something that most coworking space members really enjoy.
According to the survey by Deskmag, about 50% of coworkers access the coworking space around the clock. Only 30% of members stick to the normal working hours.
The flexibility of coworking spaces is not limited to time.
Members also have the flexibility of choosing how they work. If you want to collaborate with others, there are open areas with shared tables where you can collaborate and share ideas with other members.
If you prefer working in a quiet place where you can focus, there are closed off spaces where you can work without being disturbed.
Many also have relaxation areas and lounges.
For instance, if you want to read your emails in a relaxed setting as you listen to some soft music, they got you covered.
There is a space to suit whatever style of working that brings out your productivity.
This kind of flexibility is hard to fathom in a traditional office setting.
POTENTIAL FOR INNOVATION, LEARNING AND COLLABORATION
Another great thing about coworking spaces is their very diverse nature.
You might find yourself working next to a designer one day, a writer the next day and a software engineer the day after
This diversity gives you access to people you would not have access to in a traditional office setting.
Interacting with this diverse group of people often leads to increased opportunities for innovation and collaboration.
For example, someone from a completely different field can help you look at your ideas and challenges from a different angle, thereby helping you come up with new, innovative solutions that you would not have thought of otherwise.
Alternatively, you can team up with them and come up with a project that utilizes both your skills.
You might also have noticed that most of the people who prefer coworking spaces are entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is a difficult endeavor with a very steep learning curve.
The faster you can learn, the faster you are going to succeed.
If you work from home or a more traditional office, your learning opportunities are limited. A coworking space, on the other hand, puts you together with other entrepreneurs.
As you interact with them, you can learn from their experiences and share your challenges with them.
This lessens the amount of time you need to succeed and minimizes your chances of making mistakes that could be costly for your business.
STRONG PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS
Joining a coworking space is also a great way to build friendships with people outside of your workplace.
It is a particularly great way of building professional relationships and raising the profile of your business.
You can actually think of coworking as attending a networking event every day.
As you interact with other members, you get the chance to connect with people who might turn out to be relevant to your business – suppliers, contractors, potential clients, and even business partners.
For example, let’s assume you are a web designer.
Among the other members of the coworking space might be an architect, a freelance writer, a freelance graphic designer, and a social media marketer. All these are people who might be relevant to your business.
As you interact and connect, you might realize that the architect needs a website to market his services, thereby landing yourself a client.
As you work on the architect’s website, you can outsource the writing of the website copy and design of the logo and icons to the writer and the graphic designer respectively.
You can also partner with the social media marketer to help you advertise your web design services on Facebook.
In this way, the coworking space provides you with an opportunity to build strong personal and professional relationships on a level that would have been impossible had you been working from home or from a traditional office setting.
In addition, many coworking spaces organize events for members to interact and connect, giving you even more opportunities to build your professional network even further.
COWORKING SPACE MEMBERS FIND MEANING IN THEIR WORK
People who work out of coworking spaces tend to find more meaning in their work compared to people who work in traditional offices.
This can be attributed both to the type of work they do as well as how they do it.
The people you are likely to find in a coworking space are usually freelancers and entrepreneurs. Freelancers usually get to choose the projects they want to work on.
This means that they are more likely to choose projects that excite them and are therefore more likely to find the work meaningful.
The same applies to entrepreneurs, who are passionate about their businesses and are therefore more likely to find meaning in what they do.
Coworkers also find meaning in their work because they can be themselves at work.
In a traditional office setting, people usually have two personalities.
Their real selves, and their office personality.
Because of things like competition with workmates, office politics, bad bosses, and so on, people in a traditional office setting find the need to create an office persona to deal with these issues. This can be exhausting.
In a coworking space, everyone is usually working for themselves, so there are no issues like competition and office politics.
This allows people to bring their real selves to work, which in turn allows them to find more meaning in their work.
In addition, the culture within a coworking space is a lot more relaxed and fun.
The other coworking space members are more of friends than workmates. If you feel like you need a break, you can walk to the break room and play a game of pool before going back to your desk.
You don’t have to pretend to be working even when you have nothing to do just because your boss is around.
If your work for the day is done, you can leave early instead of waiting for 5 o’clock.
All these factors contribute to coworkers finding more meaning in their work.
GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS
For entrepreneurs, a coworking space is the perfect place to grow your business.
A coworking space allows you to interact on a daily basis with other entrepreneurs who are in different stages of building their businesses.
This gives you the opportunity to learn from their collective experiences and avoid common pitfalls.
Many coworking spaces are also run by knowledgeable managers who can offer some useful advice and help point you in the right direction.
Coworking spaces also give you access to a community of people with diverse skillsets that might be useful to your growing business.
In addition, many coworking spaces also provide incubation and accelerator programs.
These are programs that help get businesses off the ground and provide resources and information on how to rapidly grow your business.
Through these programs, you can get free expert advice, secure funding for your business, find a mentor, find partners, and so on. In other words, a coworking space can increase your chances of successfully getting your business off the ground and growing it.
DESIGN AND WELLBEING
Most traditional offices are typically utilitarian.
They are designed for functionality rather than aesthetics. Because of this, they have a sterile and uninspiring feel.
Coworking spaces, on the other hand, are greatly designed to provide a great ambience and promote a feeling of wellbeing.
Walk into any coworking space and I can bet that you will find the place welcoming and positive.
There is great attention to the interior design, there is lots of natural light, there are break out spaces, lounges and cafes, some even have perks like gyms.
All this is meant to enhance members’ energy and inspire them.
As a result, people who work out of coworking spaces are often more engaged and ultimately more productive in their work.
TIME IS MONEY WHEN YOU ARE COWORKING
It is pretty common to get distracted when you are working. You might be busy working when a friend shares a funny clip she saw on Twitter.
You decide to quickly check it out and go back to your work, but before you realize it, you have spent an hour scrolling your Twitter timeline.
While the same might happen even if you are working out of a coworking space, you are less likely to give in to distractions when coworking.
Remember, you are paying good money to use that space, therefore you want to make sure that your time there is spent on important stuff rather than wasting time.
Because of these, you are less likely to be prone to distractions when coworking, which in turn improves your productivity.
WHAT OPPORTUNITIES DO COWORKING SPACES PRESENT FOR CORPORATES?
The coworking movement started with entrepreneurs, freelancers and players in the tech industry.
Having seen its benefits, however, larger organizations and corporates have also started getting interested in the concept of coworking.
Some large organizations such as KPMG, PwC, Pinterest, Airbnb, Microsoft, PepsiCo, GE, Heineken, and several others have already embraced the concept of coworking as a way to disrupt the stale corporate culture and promote the values that are associated with coworking, such as flexibility, innovation and collaboration, as well as a way to attract and retain top talent.
Just like the companies mentioned above, you can also make coworking part of your company strategy and take advantage of the benefits that come with this new mode of working.
Below are some of the different models your organization can apply in order to exploit the benefits of coworking.
External Coworking Strategy
With this strategy, an organization picks an already existing coworking space, pays a membership for the space and then uses the space as an alternative working space for its employees.
The method used to decide which employees get to use the coworking space will differ from company to company.
For instance, one company might opt to have teams working on a particular project working out of the coworking space.
Another company might opt to give the membership to employees who require a flexible workspace.
Yet other companies might opt to use coworking spaces as a place for meetings.
A good example of a company that does this well is AT&T. It was actually one of the first companies to adopt this strategy.
Several of AT&T’s top technologists, product developers and top researchers work out of coworking spaces across the country. AT&T has also invited other partner companies such as Ericsson into the program, allowing their employees to work together with the aim of spurring creativity and innovation.
When picking an external coworking space, it is important for an organization to pick a space that matches the needs of its employees.
Remember, one of the most important aspects of a coworking space is its culture. If the culture of a coworking space does not augur well with your mobile employees, you might not enjoy the benefits you are trying to gain by adopting a coworking strategy.
Luckily, as more and more organizations are embracing the coworking concept, many coworking spaces are coming up with membership models that are well suited to corporate members.
One great advantage of the external coworking strategy is that it does not require a lot of investment.
Companies can pay for short term membership to test whether their employees like the option of coworking and whether it is actually delivering results.
If the strategy works, the organization can then pay for a much longer membership period. If it doesn’t work, the company can pull out without having to worry about losing their investment.
Internal Coworking Strategy
If you don’t like the sound of sponsoring your employees to an external coworking space, you also have the option of building your own internal coworking space.
Some of the companies that have gone down this route include ERA Contour, GLG, Bank West, KPMG, Macquarie Bank, IBM, SAP, Sprint, and several others.
To build an internal coworking space, a company simply takes some large space and converts it into a coworking space where employees can work in a large, shared common area with flexible and unassigned workstations.
Companies can even partner with a coworking space to have them create an internal coworking solution for them. For instance, coworking space provider WeWork has developed internal coworking spaces for companies like Facebook, UPS and IBM.
When creating a coworking space, it is important for companies to replicate the culture of coworking space.
Without doing this, the internal coworking space will most likely be a total failure. What gives coworking spaces their advantage is the spirit of freedom, mobility, flexibility, and collaboration.
The ability to replicate this culture is the reason why huge companies give the task of creating internal coworking solutions to coworking space providers.
Another option for creating the coworking space culture is to bring it to your internal solution by inviting freelancers and entrepreneurs into the internal coworking space.
A good example of a company that nailed this approach is Orange.
By creating an internal coworking space and inviting freelancers into the space, Orange created a win-win solution.
Freelancers get an affordable and flexible space, they help create the culture of a coworking space, and Orange employees can take advantage of the space and culture to spur innovation and creativity.
The two above models are the major approaches for companies seeking to adopt the coworking concept.
However, there are several other models being used by different organizations, which include:
- Two or more companies set up a coworking space where the employees of both companies can easily interact and collaborate, all while keeping their workspaces fairly separate.
- Companies with primarily remote employees use coworking spaces to bring the employees together for collaboration occasionally, say once a week.
- Companies without an actual office might use coworking spaces to hold meetings with clients.
- Companies can rent out coworking spaces for their creative departments that might be stifled by a traditional office setting.
- Some companies might opt to use coworking spaces when working on short-term assignments outside its home city.
Coworking spaces are here to stay. The many benefits offered by these spaces means that they will only become more popular.
People who work out of coworking spaces tend to thrive because of the sense of community of coworking spaces, the flexibility, the potential for innovation, learning and collaboration, the opportunity to build strong personal and professional relationships, and the spaces’ focus on great design and wellbeing.
In addition, coworking spaces allow people to find meaning in their work and provide great opportunities for members to grow their business.
Fortunately, coworking spaces are not restricted to freelancers and entrepreneurs.
Companies and large organizations can also start taking advantage of coworking spaces and exploiting their benefits.