Coworking is taking over the workplace.
With a global annual growth rate of 24.2% and an estimated member base of 5.1 million by 2022 as projected by coworker.com, coworking has redefined the definition of office space.
Where it started
Coined as a phrase by Brad Neuberg in 2005, the world’s first coworking space originated in San Francisco, California. The aptly named San Francisco Coworking Space was located in Spiral Muse, a feminist collective in the city’s Mission District.
Fast-forward five years and WeWork opened its first shared workspace in New York. Since 2010, WeWork has become one of coworking’s most recognisable faces with 831 current locations across 125 different cities in 37 countries. 51 of those locations are in London – we would know, we’ve built a lot of them.
Coworking exploded the traditional workplace by introducing workspace that could be used by whoever needed it, when they needed it. Suddenly freelance workers weren’t relegated to crowded coffee shops, start-ups could afford workspace in central locations and no one was tied to 10-year leases. This new-found flexibility liberated the world’s workforce and levelled the workscape.
Our Creative Director, Nic Pryke, recently spoke at Condeco’s Innovation Forum on the Evolution of the Workplace.
“We spend a lot of time talking about the future workplace with our clients, and trying to understand where they think their needs are going to be in the future,” he said.
“Change is accelerating, it’s becoming faster…. And it’s harder and harder for businesses to predict what’s going on in their future lives…. What does that mean for the workplace? What it means, going forward, is that coworking is going to become a bigger and bigger player….”
What is coworking
Coworking is flexible, rentable workspace with communal and private areas. Its boundaries are constantly changing. A more pertinent view of coworking is that of space with added value.
Coworking space offers workspace plus something. That something is primarily community and secondarily a range of wellness-enhancing amenities.
By including a variety of spaces from personal offices and formal meeting rooms, to shared work zones and breakout areas, coworking layouts create opportunities for interaction. Members have the privacy they need to carry out their own work, but spend most of their time working around other members from other professions. This proximity inevitably leads to interaction and the result is a natural environment for networking and collaboration.
Coworking locations often provide their own events to strengthen internal community, a reason many members join in the first place. In-house amenities turn coworking offices into event spaces faster than you can say ‘craft beer.’
Amenities can be generalised (teapoints, coffee shops, complimentary flavoured water or beer on tap) to fit almost any member audience, or bespoke (cinemas, recording studios, catered meals or gymnasiums). Based on location and intended market, coworking spaces will usually include a mix of both. On either end of the amenities spectrum, member work / life balance is improved with the added convenience of the incorporated facilities.
Let’s not forget flexibility. Shorter lease opportunities make renting coworking space possible for almost anyone with the ability to book space monthly, weekly and even daily. Longer leases still exist, but they aren’t the only option anymore. The added freedom isn’t only beneficial for members – landlords can use coworking space as a way to generate income despite market fluctuations with a space that adapts to market changes.
Pryke touched on coworking’s comparative freedom at Condeco, remarking that, “Coworking’s no longer about incubation and start-ups. HSBC, Facebook, Airbnb – all these companies are using coworking …to grow and contract because they can’t predict the future and they need flexibility.”
How do coworking spaces work
There are three main components to successful coworking spaces. Demand generation, relevance and space optimisation come together to fill coworking offices with creative potential.
Coworking spaces thrive when they combine a working knowledge of their target membership with competitive pricing, and it’s their ability to be all things to all people that creates such high demand.
That demand is maintained through continual relevance. Coworking layouts are extremely flexible, lending themselves to efficient refreshes and ultimately remaining current without huge update expenditures. To find out more about how we help clients design their coworking spaces for an ever-changing market, download our Coworking Guide here.
Space optimisation is what coworking layouts are built around. Coworking aims to accommodate as many people per square metre of floorspace as possible, without sacrificing safety or comfort. This is done by enhancing the building fabric to maximise the number of members using the space.
Where it’s going
Shared aspects of life are entering more than just the workplace. We use apps to walk each other’s dogs, share unfinished food and even live together. Coliving is rising alongside coworking, providing not only communal workspace, but living space for professionals in the same buildings.
On the workplace’s imminent future, Pryke explains that it’s unfolding; “If you push me, I’d say it’s going to spring out of words like immersive, interactive and digital. I’m expecting it to be something that’s not static, something that’s changing: something that can be bespoke.”
We may not be able to predict the future of coworking but we are on the brink of discovering it, and that’s an exciting place to be.
Sean Espinasse, Design Director at Oktra North, poignantly summarises coworking as, “…developing more and more face-to-face connections. That’s when it becomes an incredibly positive thing; an incredibly powerful thing.”