Technology and the Internet have revolutionised the way in which we work and live. Perhaps the main impact of digitialisation over the last few decades is that it has created an increasingly mobile workforce worldwide that is no longer constrained to the traditional office on the standard 9-5 schedule. In response to this movement, co-working spaces have existed in some form for decades, challenging the typical workspace. More recently, drastic improvements in remote working technology and a corresponding shift in work culture has caused an explosion in the popularity of these spaces. An independent analysis has found that co-working spaces have expanded from just 1,130 spaces in 2011 to 13,800 globally in 2017.
THE EVOLUTION OF CO-WORKING
Traditionally, co-working has been the workplace of choice for young companies, start-ups, freelancers and entrepreneurs since they seek a relatively low-cost workspace that offers all the necessary amenities that you would find in a conventional office. Many co-working spaces offer a community manager, conference rooms, kitchen, meeting rooms, lounge areas and free WiFi.
However, with these shared work environments, it’s often the networking opportunities that become the most valuable amenity (through networking events for example). It’s a solution to no longer working in isolation; those lonely days at home alone need not exist anymore. Everyone can grow, both personally and professionally, from the exchange of contacts and ideas between different groups and communities.
The popularity of co-working and shared office spaces is growing in part because of the changing structure of the workforce. It’s predicted that by 2020, 40% of the workforce will be freelancers, independent contractors and "solopreneurs". The Millennial generation are also a driving force behind the expansion of this type of working environment - seeking a flexible alternative to the traditional office that their parents and grandparents grew so accustomed to. This type of environment now allows more people to work in a way that fits around their lives, instead of fitting their lives around their work.
However, times are changing and the "traditional" view of co-working spaces as a space for only entrepreneurs and freelancers no longer holds true. Major corporations are now getting involved (and reaping the benefits). From innovation zones, to higher staff satisfaction levels, Coworking spaces are able to help large corporations operate in ways that were previously unimagined. More recently, spaces are evolving to cater for more sectors of the economy: small to medium enterprises (SME’s) and multi-national corporations (MNC’s) included, which have previously been limited to traditional offices.
The competition in the market has led many co-working spaces to provide creative perks, such as pet-friendliness, on-site gyms and even saunas. This added value, alongside the attractiveness of the short contracts and general flexibility of these spaces in an economic downturn, have attracted more SMEs and MNCs to the market. This, in particular, is causing a major disruption within the Chinese office rental market.
CAN CO-WORKING IMPROVE BOTH WESTERN AND EASTERN WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
Technology is often blurring the boundary between work and personal life. Finding the optimum balance between work and daily living is becoming harder each and every day. Could co-working be a solution to this ongoing challenge? Expert Market put together a ranking of cities, which have the best and worst work-life balance for workers. They found that many of the cities with the worst work-life balance are located in Eastern countries i.e. Bangkok, Taipei City, Dubai with Hong Kong topping that list. Workers in these parts of the world work longer hours and take the least days of holiday leave. European and Scandinavian cities such as Paris, Helskini, Barcelona and Milan come out top for cities with the best work-life balance. It could be suggested that many employers in the Eastern countries could do more to protect the health and work-life balance of workers.
However, businesses around the world are beginning to promote the importance of work-life balance to their employees and the co-working movement appears to be aiding this evolution in both Western and Eastern countries. In Hong-Kong, one of the most expensive cities in the world to purchase property, both co-working and co-living spaces are on the rise. With space at a premium, these businesses are thriving while also providing workers with increased flexibility with regard to working hours and location. Workers increasingly have the flexibility to come and go as they please and have a chance to interact with like-minded people on a constant basis. As people begin to realise that Coworking spaces are not just for entrepreneurs, the work-life balance of those working for SMEs and MNCs will shift drastically, and for the better.
SUSTAINABILITY AND THE FUTURE OF WORK ENVIRONMENTS
Modern technology, an evolving work culture and a focus on sustainability are all acting as driving forces of change in which we work and live. There is now a huge amount of emphasis on securing our future, particularly that of our environment and slowing down the effects of global warming. In many cities around the world, pollution, expanding population and the apparent effects of global warming are all pressing issues. New offices are adopting sustainable designs which lower energy consumption and reduce overall environmental impact. A key focus area is the well-being and work-balance strategies for workers, however, research suggests more emphasis on this is needed in eastern countries, where many feel they work to live, rather than live to work.
Co-working spaces are on the rise around the globe, trying to accommodate all the pressing needs for both workers and the environment. With our cities becoming more expensive, over-populated and polluted, Coworking is not, admittedly, the solution to all of our problems. However, it does appear to be an educated step in the right direction to meet our ever-changing needs.
Here at OneCoWork we are acutely aware of this shift in work ideals and the needs of new start-ups and entrepreneurs and we are striving to be at the forefront of the movement. We are continuously searching for new ideas, new designs and new ways of doing things in order to create the best coworking space possible for all our current and future Members. We rely on Member feedback for continuous betterment and to expand our role within the new and unfolding world of coworks.
What role do you think coworking spaces will play in the future? We’d love to hear your thoughts 😊