Coworking spaces have become a major factor in the modern business sphere, increasingly changing the way a lot of people carry out their daily tasks, offering workers easy access to an infrastructure, a workspace, interesting colleagues and – most of the time – some good coffee, in exchange for a membership fee.
Coworking spaces have also made self-employment a lot more accessible than before – more than 20% of the people who sign up for them are freelancers or otherwise self-employed. Over the past few years, the trend has become extremely popular, with some coworking hubs even aiming to cater for larger enterprises.
Jeff Revoy, co-founder and COO at SpaceIQ – a comprehensive workplace management and optimization platform – is the latest expert to share his insights on the coworking trend and voice his opinions on what impact it will have in the future.
Q: The coworking trend is constantly evolving and becoming increasingly popular nowadays, so what do coworking spaces offer today that they didn’t a few years ago?
A: Coworking is sometimes referred to as blending the best aspects of travel (i.e. a high-end or boutique hotel), the social atmosphere of a university and many of the comforts of your own home.
This is important because, during the course of a day, people tend to prioritize different ways of working – concentrating, collaborating, demanding privacy or socializing. Many of the early coworking offices were noisy open spaces (something which is typical of many start-ups). The newer coworking spaces have tried to improve many aspects of this workday experience with higher end amenities, more social events and private personal space.
Q: Have the needs and expectations of coworkers changed compared to a couple of years ago?
A: Absolutely! A few years ago, a co-working space was mainly occupied by individuals or early-stage startups. Today, reports indicate that 50% of users are corporations.
At SpaceIQ, we see almost every one of our corporate customers using some form of coworking to accommodate part of their workforce, in particular remote workers. With its adoption by corporate customers, the expectations of coworking – for instance regarding security, connectivity, privacy, and collaboration – have significantly increased. Today, the best coworking spaces are immersive, offer captivating design, and can deliver unexpected rewards in terms of privacy, productivity and comfort.
Q: Many large-sized tech companies have started migrating a part of their workforce into coworking spaces – how do you think this could benefit bigger corporations?
A: We see almost every one of our corporate SpaceIQ customers using some form of coworking to address the needs of part of their workforce (in particular remote workers). The benefits to corporations are the following:
- Productivity: While remote/home workers avoid commutes and can expand your talent reach, it’s been proven that there are many negative aspects of remote working (e.g. loneliness, isolation, and detachment). Coworking can address many of these issues for remote employees.
- Talent: Data has shown that “personal office space” is a top-three concern for employees. In a world where competition for talent is high, offering employees cutting edge, immersive office space – like WeWork does – can be very compelling.
- Flexible costs: The most obvious reason, and the one that most companies see as the major benefit, is cost control. Real Estate costs continue to skyrocket in major metro areas. Unfortunately, companies need to make 5-, 10-, or even 15-year commitments to commercial real estate (can you imagine locking in your marketing budget for 2028?). Coworking/Space-as-a-Service offers companies tremendous cost flexibility.
Q: What are some of the major trends that you see currently on the coworking scene?
A: I think there are three major trends:
- Growth: The growth is staggering. In 2011, there were less than 50,000 coworking members, and today there are more than 1.2 million! Current forecasts provided by the large coworking conference operators GCUC and Emergent indicate the number of coworking members will rise to a staggering 3.8 million by 2020 and 5.1 million by 2022.
- Enterprise: WeWork, Knotel, and others are trying to offer dedicated space to enterprise customers. You get the coworking experience, productivity, and cost flexibility but the space/floor/building is completely dedicated to one company.
- Competition: Investment money is flooding into this space, WeWork’s valuation has doubled, and there appears to be no end in sight. Competition will naturally drive change, and the traditional real estate brokers, and landlords are already responding. (with improved amenities, employee engagement offers, etc.)
Q: What do you predict the future of coworking will look like and what do you think its impact will be on the modern workplace?
A: Wow, that’s a tough question, and the answer is probably worth a lot of money! In the end, I think that coworking experience and traditional corporate experience will merge and become one and the same. I was recently in both the new Salesforce Tower and Slack’s new San Francisco office. If you were blindfolded and lead into each building you wouldn’t have recognized much difference inside from a high-end WeWork location. Both Slack and Salesforce are addressing the needs of the modern employee and the productive agility needed in their workday. They offer private personal space, collaborative space, modern phone booths, and social gathering areas. Slack has an amazing city view from their 10th floor coffee area. There is a tremendous focus on design, employee engagement, and fostering of productivity and collaboration.
I believe, going forward, that this approach will be not only be adopted by incredibly successful companies like Slack and Salesforce, but by companies of all sizes across various industries. Even at SpaceIQ, we noticed a tremendous productivity benefit by making modest, cost-effective, but well-thought-out design changes to our offices. In the end, eliminating distractions and providing your entire company with the tools, environment, and ability to be highly productive always gives a great ROI.