Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you’ve probably heard of coworking. It’s a style of shared workspace that has made huge waves in the commercial real estate industry in recent years, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
One of the largest and best-known coworking operators, WeWork, is currently the second most-valuable start-up in the US (behind Uber), thanks to its lofty $40+ billion valuation.
WeWork might be the one making headlines, but it’s certainly not alone in its quest to deliver beautifully designed, amenity-rich workspaces to businesses large and small. In fact, there are tens of thousands of coworking locations around the world used by a huge range of organizations, from big-name brands like Facebook to freelancers and startups.
One report predicts that there will be over 30,400 spaces and 5.1 million coworking members by 2022. From swanky design-led brands in downtown locations, to independent spaces in remote towns and exotic resorts, coworking is everywhere.
So what exactly is coworking? How does it work, who uses it, and why are businesses embracing this style of workspace? Let’s take a closer look at the world of coworking and how it could help your business.
A Coworking Definition
A coworking space is a shared office in which professionals work together, although they don’t necessarily work for the same company. In fact, any given coworking space could be filled with an eclectic mix of freelancers, startup owners, corporate project teams, nonprofit organizations, and part-time entrepreneurs.
Having emerged in the mid-2000s, coworking quickly gained its own identity. It’s an alternative form of working from the traditional office lease, and it started out as an informal gathering of freelancers and entrepreneurs who would regularly meet in ‘third places’ – a place to work that’s not a regular office or their home – to escape the isolation of working alone.
Coworking has become renowned for its ‘community’ ethos. You can find a place to work with WiFi nearly anywhere, but it’s this feeling of support and camaraderie that keeps members coming back to their chosen coworking space, month after month.
Most coworking spaces are run on a membership basis, whereby entrepreneurs pay a subscription and use a desk full-time, or for a set amount of hours each month. It’s known for its popularity among freelancers, digital nomads and remote workers, but in recent years it has become increasingly popular with larger companies too, who recognize the opportunity for shared knowledge and cross-pollination between their own staff and other professionals.
Why Businesses Work Remotely
A lot of companies now use coworking for entire teams, while some large corporates are integrating coworking spaces into their head offices, too. A large driver for this trend is remote working, which has escalated significantly in recent years as advances in mobile technology has enabled entrepreneurs and employees alike to work from virtually anywhere.
However, while technology is the enabler, it’s not necessarily the reason for the surge in remote working.
That’s down to changing attitudes towards flexible working and a steady yet growing appreciation that working remotely can significantly improve productivity. Numerous studies show that flexible work programs result in better employee satisfaction, an increase in employee empowerment, lower attrition rates, and enhanced collaboration.
For the employee, remote working offers better work-life balance, reduced commuting and travelling expenses, fewer distractions, reduced exposure to office politics, and more free time. That all adds up to a happier workforce who are more likely to feel motivated at work and more loyal to their employer.
Benefits of Working from a Coworking Space
Coworking is a popular option for remote workers and employees who prefer to work closer to home, but not necessarily at home.
Why? Much of it comes down to the aforementioned camaraderie and mutual support found in coworking spaces, not to mention the feeling of accountability. It’s a lot harder to slack off from your day job when you’re surrounded by head-down, hardworking professionals.
Here’s a quick rundown of the benefits of coworking for businesses:
- Work closer to home: When you’re limited by geography, you’re much less likely to find the ideal recruit. However when you can hire from virtually anywhere, and allow your staff to work in a coworking space closer to home rather than commuting to a central office every day, your chances of finding the right person are much higher.
- Collaborate with other professionals: Coworking offers a fantastic opportunity to spend time in a professional workplace environment filled with people from many different backgrounds. From creatives and designers, to marketers and analysts, to specialist consultants and accountants, you have the opportunity to work with, and learn from, talented people with a huge variety of skill sets.
- Network and share contacts: When you’re sharing space with other professionals, networking and new business opportunities happen organically. It’s a great way to do business together and build your network.
- Escape loneliness: Working from home can be liberating, yet lonely. It’s easy to lose focus and become distracted by the everyday home environment – whether it’s the unwashed laundry in the corner, or simply staring at the same four walls. In a coworking space however, regular interaction with different people helps to stave off loneliness and keep you focused on the tasks ahead.
- Low-cost workspace: For business owners looking to upgrade their home office, a coworking space can provide a commercial mailing address and a location for meetings with clients or team members. Most coworking spaces operate on a flexible monthly membership, which is much more economical than a regular private office lease due to the shared amenities. It’s ideal for small businesses or independent professionals looking to take the next step.
As you can see, coworking spaces have a lot to offer. Our advice is to give it a try and see for yourself. Many spaces offer a free trial day pass or at the very least, they will show you around, introduce you to the members, and answer all your questions.