Eight ways coworking is evolving
Coworking space design has the business world by storm in recent years with the number of communal workspaces snowballing in cities across the world.
Its popularity is showing no sign of slowing: the number of coworking spaces is predicted to reach one million globally by 2018. The challenge now is to stand out from the crowd – and coworking providers are increasingly thinking of new ways to diversify their offer.
Karen Williamson, Associate Director, Corporate Research at JLL says: “Coworking is transforming real estate. Pioneered by start-ups, entrepreneurs and freelancers, a growing number of companies, large and small, are exploring how to incorporate the concept. To stand out from the growing competition, coworking providers are differentiating their offer to help attract discerning entrepreneurs and companies who want more from their workspace than just a desk and a coffee machine.”
The most-talked about evolution of coworking, co-living provides studio apartments under the same roof as coworking space. Designed to meet both the social and professional needs of young people, it often markets itself on eliminating the accommodation hassles, ‘life admin’ and loneliness that twenty-somethings face when starting work.
After years of university communal living, ‘co-livers’ can continue being with their friends, don’t have to commute, and can pay an all-inclusive rent. They also have access to social areas, a launderette, cinema, games room, gym as well as work space. It’s a model that appeals to anyone who wants to hang on to a student-style life while collaborating on building a business or career.
Similarly, some corporates, such as Deloitte, have provided graduate accommodation, hoping to attract the best talent by solving their accommodation needs.
The always-on lifestyle of today’s entrepreneurs and freelancers has brought about a market for coworking holidays. Head to the beaches of Southern Europe or the Canary Islands and you’ll find ‘location independent’ workers making the most of the surf and sun in-between conference calls and networking. Based in Portugal and Spain, Sunny Office says it offers ‘coworking holidays in sunny places with a group of authentic and passionate freelancers and entrepreneurs from all over Europe’. The slightly more energetic sounding ‘Surf Office’ mixes surfing, with coworking space and accommodation for its globetrotting desk hoppers.
One way to attract attention is to set up coworking space in an iconic location. London’s Shard has coworking space on floors 24 and 25 of the tower and the provider says the space offers individual offices and a range of meeting rooms.
Childcare is another selling point for some coworking providers with several crèche companies entering the coworking space. Corporates have been providing on-site childcare for years so it’s no surprise that coworking providers are going down this route, too. Third Door is one of many offering childcare and office facilities under one roof in London.
Coworking is also becoming much more sector specific, using locations, design and fit-out to target certain clients. For example The Trampery’s site in London’s Old Street promotes connections between tech entrepreneurs and nearby city corporates. Meanwhile its more hip site in arty Hackney focuses on fusing technology with the film industry and music businesses.
Coworking providers are now expected to offer personal and business development to their users in a bid to help them grow their business. Arranging networking opportunities is one way space providers can do this. For example, TechHub, operating across Europe and India, has regular demo nights in which members show off their products plus talks –called Founder’s Secrets – by start-up founders.
Alternatively, members can take a collective approach. For example, in return for a chance to network with specific sectors or for subsidized membership, some members may take it turns to man reception or look after meetings.
Another example of niche provision is women-only space. It’s not yet mainstream but successful where it exists. Woolf Works is a women-only coworking space in Singapore. It prides itself on helping develop women business leaders as well as providing space.
Membership of an external coworking group is a widely accepted way of working. JLL’s report A new era of coworking reveals that coworking can be an optimal workplace solution for companies seeking flexibility and access to work space outside the office, much needed in these days of global travel.
Corporates are also turning to external coworking space when working on ring-fenced or test-bed projects, often with outside collaborators. Furthermore, coworking, when set up within the organization, can improve collaboration as well as help attract talent by offering some alternatives to a conventional corporate space. In order to gain knowledge and access young talent, companies are setting up internal coworking spaces providing incubator space for external start-ups. Meanwhile ‘break-out areas’ have increased in size to become internal coworking spaces.
Finally, a coworking provider might not have space in every location sought after by its members. To address this, many providers create a network of available coworking space by arranging reciprocated access with a competitor.