Coworking: a new spin on an established trend

Today, coworking is hardly breaking news. Shared work spaces have been springing up in Europe since mid-90s, and it is safe to say the movement has now established itself in many parts of the world, including the UK. Originally, coworking spaces were set up to offer start-ups and freelancers a productive, yet sociable, and affordable work environment. Coworking space providers realised that despite the fact that high-speed broadband and personal devices made working from home much easier, people still preferred being part of a like-minded community, and coworking could offer them exactly that … plus an unlimited supply of coffee. Deskmag predicts that by the end of this year there will be over 10,000 coworking spaces around the globe[1].

About four years ago established businesses began experimenting with coworking. Today, prominent banks, management consultancies, technology giants, and consumer staples brands are embracing the concept by providing employees with coworking memberships, redesigning offices to promote collaboration, and even running start-up accelerators. There are a number of reasons why companies are willing to embrace the trend. Interestingly, financial flexibility and comparatively low cost of coworking appear to be among the least important ones.

Attracting people comes out on top amongst the key drivers for companies engaging with coworking. This is not surprising – the results of JLL’s latest Global Corporate Real Estate Survey revealed that 56% of CRE leaders report increased demand to support the wider corporate agenda around talent. Coworking provides a different experience, which can significantly improve the levels of engagement and satisfaction with the workplace. Coworking is flexible and can create a sense of autonomy, which is particularly valued by the younger generation. Coworking space designers tend to be focused on the aesthetics and comfort as much as on the functionality of the space, which makes it an enjoyable place to be.

Pressured by the intensifying competition for top skills, companies are exploring innovative workplace solutions to get ahead. It is common for a coworking area to incorporate a leisure element, like a café or a coffee shop, which can improve the experience of the corporate environment. Coworking provides a change of scene, which can boost creativity. It also promotes knowledge sharing, which can lead to generation of new ideas. Even though lately there has been a lot of discussion about a “collaborative overload” in the workplace and its negative effect on productivity[2], no one would deny that a moderate amount of cross-team interaction is beneficial for the business.
As senior leadership increasingly look to align corporate real estate decisions with HR strategies, companies are exploring different workplace practices. Coworking is likely to be a powerful factor in shaping the new ways of work in the coming years. Real estate requirements are changing to absorb new working models, and that will inevitably require investment and operational adjustments. However, a workplace which supports the happiness of staff can bring long-term benefits to the business and is therefore worth the effort.

[1] http://www.deskmag.com/en/2016-forecast-global-coworking-survey-results

[2] https://hbr.org/2016/01/collaborative-overload

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