- Are coworking spaces becoming the new normal?
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Research shows that 33 percent of today’s workforce comprises independent or freelance professionals, and by 2020, that number is expected to rise to 40 percent. There are a myriad of reasons why professionals—especially those in the technology space—are transitioning from full-time employees to consultants, which we discuss further in this blog. One of the less desirable outcomes from working as a freelancer, however, is the increased amount of time spent working alone. While some thrive working by themselves, others crave a more structured office space, with human interaction. For this reason, coworking has become an attractive option for a growing number of independent professional, and there are statistics to support it:
- CoworkingResources.org estimates there to be 18,287 coworking spaces operating worldwide, and predicts this number to grow to almost 26,000 by 2022.
- The same source estimated that 1,000 coworking spaces opened in the US in 2018 and almost 700 more will open this year, putting the US eighth worldwide for growth in the number of coworking spaces. Many of the new coworking spaces are predicted to open in cities with budding start-up cultures, or in states that have experienced a recent influx of tech startups moving from other states where taxes and operating costs are more expensive, or employees are too hard to find.
There’s no doubt about it, the coworking industry is at an all time high.
What does a typical coworking space look like?
Coworking spaces come in all shapes and sizes. Small spaces might have only 10 shared desks, others would have 120. Some might only have individual desks in a communal space to rent, others have private or multi-desk offices. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to what a coworking space is. The one common factor? Working in a shared office space, you’ll be surrounded by other professionals, whether it’s groups of employees in the same small business or independent freelancers.
Coworking spaces are often known for their interior design. Think of large rooms with sitting desks, standing desks, sofas, couches, bean bags, plant walls, foosball tables, table tennis, and even hanging swings. They are designed to entice people to want to work there as opposed to working from home in isolation. Creativity really is the name of the game when it comes to the design of coworking spaces.
Benefits to coworking environments
Cost-savings: While for the most part, coworking spaces target individual freelancers and solopreneurs, coworking isn’t reserved only for one-man businesses. Many small businesses and start-ups are trending towards utilizing shared office spaces because of the long-term cost savings. Rather than having to rent an office space with a boardroom or extra meeting rooms that are rarely used, you use and pay for them as and when needed. Most coworking spaces come with different monthly rental plans that can include a set number of hours of boardroom or private meeting room time. In addition, the payments are predictable, which is a great benefit for many people. In a traditional office setting, you never know your costs for internet, utilities, printer ink, and other basic office supplies. However, a shared office space builds everything into the monthly cost.
Access to better facilities: Coworking spaces are usually well-designed and have large communal areas, such as kitchens and lunchrooms, often far more upmarket that a solo-worker or small business owner could afford! Some coworking spaces also provide a staffed front desk or administrative support, one less thing for you to have to worry about!
Scalability: If your start-up grows from 1 employee to 5 in year one, you don’t need to look for bigger office space, simply rent additional desks. Likewise, if you need to downsize for a period of time, change rental plans—you’re not locked into a long-term lease with little flexibility.
Community: Coworking spaces allow employees in a small business or solopreneurs to interact with a wider circle of like minded professionals, and work alongside other business owners and freelancers. Some shared offices put on events, such as lunch-and-learns, fitness classes, or networking events designed to bring fellow coworkers together, facilitating the broadening of their professional connections.
Innovation: When you’re surrounded by other entrepreneurs and innovators, their creativity will rub off on you. Instead of settling for mediocrity, coworking spaces help people excel in their chosen fields.
Competitive edge: A 2018 survey by International Workplace Group (IWG) of 18,000 respondents who use flexible workspaces reported:
- 89% believe flexible working helps their business grow
- 87% believe flexible working helps their business stay competitive.
- 83% believe flexible working helps their business maximize profits
Stay productive on the move: In the IWG survey 91% of respondents said flexible workspace enables employees in their company to be more productive while on the move. While there are multiple chains of coworking companies, such as Impact Hub, WeWork, and Regus, there are also thousands of independent, boutique coworking spaces spread out across the country. Coworking chains are appealing to professionals who travel a lot as the flexible membership plans mean you can usually find one to access in most major cities. However, some people prefer the uniqueness that comes with smaller, independent coworking spaces.
Employee satisfaction: Studies have shown that coworkers sharing office spaces are happier, motivated, and see their work as more meaningful. In the IWG survey, 81% of respondents said remote working locations help employees achieve a better work/life balance. A 2015 survey by Small Business Labs and GCUC found that 84% of people in shared office spaces feel more engaged and motivated, 89% are happier, and 83% are less lonely.
Attracting top talent: 80% of respondents in the IWG survey stated that enabling their company’s employees to work from anywhere helped them recruit and retain top talent without worrying about having to spend on setting up offices there.
Future trends for coworking spaces
As coworking increases in popularity as a workplace option for freelancers and small businesses, there are some trends that those in coworking spaces are going to see much more of in the coming year or two:\
- There will be more provision of onsite babysitting services—a huge benefit to parents in coworking spaces by cutting down on morning commute time, and having their child under the same roof. As businesses become more cognizant of work-life balance, more shared office spaces will be looking to have onsite babysitting services.
- Eventually, all the services a business might need will be under one roof, for example, a chartered accountant for your startup or bank employees to help you understand business banking and help you open an account.
- Operating pet-friendly shared offices are already popular but will become more so as businesses attempt to increase employee motivation and satisfaction.
- Niche coworking spaces targeting specific segments of professional e.g. coworking spaces only for developers, or only for marketers etc. will become more commonplace. The shared offices would have all the facilities that a professional in that field might need, and will foster the creation of a community among those in that profession.
- Coworking spaces will integrate smart technology to keep up with the demands of the modern workforce.
- Corporate coworking will grow as corporations look to reduce the inflexibility of long term leases, and provide employees with more options for working, better facilities, and a better work-life balance.
Coworking as a working solution has taken off in recent years, with individuals and small business owners alike recognizing the benefits that operating in a coworking space can bring.And while it’s currently freelancers and small businesses that are the predominant users of coworking spaces, don’t be surprised to see larger businesses move towards this way of working in the near future as more companies feel comfortable shifting away from a traditional office setup, and embracing the perks of coworking!