The workplace continues to evolve as technology expands our choices and capabilities. The start-up community, with its thirst for collaboration and flexibility is heavily influencing this, and it has an impact on commercial real estate. There’s a trend toward more open, shared workspaces where employees can interact and collaborate more easily, and a natural outgrowth of this is the “co-working space.”
These workplaces provide the collaborative and collegial atmosphere of the open office space to people who are working independently. In other words, they are a place to “work alone together.”
Having the flexibility to work from home or in any location has been a boon for productivity in many cases. Mobile tools and 24/7 access have changed the assumptions we make about how, when, and where work takes place. This is especially true for people who work on a contract basis, like freelancers and consultants, as well as entrepreneurs developing a new business.
These are the people who very often work from home or set themselves up for the day at Starbucks. This type of work has some drawbacks. Working from home can be isolating, and can make it difficult to maintain any separation between work and home life. Haunting the coffee shop helps, but working in public is very limiting. People need a place to work where there are other people working.
A co-working space provides just that, and they are catching on, particularly in areas with a concentration of entrepreneurs and start-ups. First described in 2005, there are now nearly 1000 co-working spaces globally. Get a better idea of just what they are by checking out some thriving spaces, like PeopleSpace, DeskHub, or WeWork.
The Pros and Cons of Co-Working
With all the mystery that surrounds these spaces, we put together a quick list of some things that people like about co-working spaces are:
- They’re an inexpensive office alternative
- Social hub; reduces isolation
- Opportunities for interaction and collaboration
- Home/work separation
- Referrals and partnerships
The benefits of co-working are clear: Users work on their own projects on their own time, and can interact and collaborate with others as they like. The spaces are designed to facilitate networking and accommodate everyone’s technologies. Spaces offer opportunities to socialize and form partnerships, as well as conveniences, like coffee, snacks, and 24/7 access. A lot of co-workers appreciate the fact that they are sharing space with people who work in a wide range of areas. They find the differences stimulating and get new insights from their co-workers.
Downsides to co-working are mostly related to a poor fit between this type of environment and the user’s work. For some, it would be more desirable to work alongside others in the same company, rather than the range of people you might share space within a co-working situation.
Implications for Commercial Real Estate
We should keep an eye on the co-working movement. They’re a growing trend, and they’re particularly relevant for start-ups and emerging businesses. These types of clients find it problematic to commit to leasing their own workspace, because their growth is often quite rapid and their needs change faster than their leases. Co-working offers them an alternative that doesn’t require that level of commitment, and also saves money.
What are your thoughts on co-working spaces? Do you have a location like this in your community? How do you think this will impact commercial real estate and the broader workplace environment? Let’s continue this conversation on our Facebook page! Connect today.