Productivity, Workspace

New vs. old; Coworking or a traditional office?


“The rise of co-working is interesting in that people are no longer going to accept working in a standard corporate space. Its rise signals the arrival of a more convivial and social workplace, with a blurring of retail, hospitality, food and office.” – Jeremy Myerson, WorkTech Academy.

Driven by the rapidly changing demands and expectations of their customers, both landlords and flexible workspace operators are adapting and thriving across the industry. In the past decade, the proliferation and take-up of coworking spaces and similar flexible office arrangements have had a revolutionary impact in the way millions of people work. However, it isn’t solely smaller operations that are aware of the value of these workspaces, with big businesses accounting for some 30% of the sales for some operators.
Flexible working spaces and more specifically co-working spaces are not solely the drivers of a change in how people work, but are also responding to the demand of new companies and individuals who expect more from their spaces than what a traditional workspace is able to provide.

According to Emergent Research, over 40% of the US workplace, in excess of 60 million people will be working on entrepreneurial ventures, freelancers, or early employees of startups within the next five years.

Additionally, according to research conducted by Northwestern University, over 60% of the upcoming, post-Millennial Generation Z want to study entrepreneurship at college. This shows the momentum towards a fundamental change in how people work shows little sign of abating.

With growth in the number of startups and small/medium enterprises, as well as freelancers, the demand is there, and the workspace industry is rising to meet it. These smaller businesses expect more from their spaces than what a traditional or serviced office can provide, and the resulting benefits, in a pragmatic business sense and beyond, often make more flexible workspaces and coworking a far more appealing option.

With a search for offices for startups, a traditional arrangement may immediately seem like a common-sense option, especially when as a startup or other small-medium enterprise, and immediate cost-savings can be a substantial draw.

Even so, looking beyond the immediate cost per desk, things begin to complicate; hidden costs can arise. Amenities essential to a modern workplace, such as superfast broadband, or the technology and security required to run a forward-thinking tech startup often aren’t immediately available, and with a small, agile business to run, using an employees time to resolve these issues is not an avenue many are willing to explore. Conversely, with coworking space, there’s much included as standard that can and does have a measurable positive impact on the way end-users work, whilst also fulfilling the heightened expectations of the modern worker.

The benefits of coworking spaces are broad and also remarkable, a study found that 86% of respondents found they were more motivated and productive in a coworking space compared to a traditional office, with 87.6% saying it improved their interactions with others.

And these results are far from isolated, a separate study found that 83% of end-users felt they had benefited from flexible working environments, with 71% stating that it was the workplaces in and of themselves having a positive effect on the way they engage with their work and the people around them. But what is it about these workspaces that drives such inspiration in their end-users? Even within the coworking industry, operators offer vastly different levels of service and amenities to their residents. Whereas some will offer simply a desk with internet access and communal areas, more striking, premium locations can and do offer something far beyond this, with beautifully designed spaces housing high-end restaurants, services, technology, and inhouse events to promote networking opportunities.

These premium spaces foster a sense of community within the space, and cater to the specific demands of their users. And a pragmatic and minimal approach is largely insufficient for those wishing to maximise not only productivity, but also the satisfaction of end users, and the retention of key talent.

It’s not surprising then, that the areas in which premium coworking spaces excel are the areas that are most desirable by many end users. 85% of users cite innovations in workplace design, service improvements, and the quality of the social and community experience as the key motivators to sustain long-term satisfaction in their workspace. For smaller businesses, freelancers, and entrepreneurs, a substantial draw is the potential business opportunities and expanded personal networks provided by spaces that proactively encourages the interaction and collaboration of its residents.

And with startups with roadmaps to rapid growth, coworking and hybrid workspaces are in a position to adapt with agility to the requirements of these businesses.

In a recent survey of companies, 74% of respondents indicate that thinking, talking, and brainstorming create the most value for an organisation. Coworking spaces actively encourage and promote this interaction and sharing of knowledge, and businesses are more and more seeing this as a route to tap into innovative ideas, and collaborate with startups so as to drive business growth in a mutually beneficial way.

In fact, 63% of companies cite the ability to collaborate as the main reason for using shared workspaces. When you’re operating in a space that actively promotes collaboration through its design and services, it becomes that much easier to find the knowledge that just a few desks away.

That’s why many spaces are now moving towards a more active utilisation of their spaces, with inhouse events ranging from social evenings, to talks from industry leaders. As well as fostering the level of interaction where users feel actively engaged in their workspace, it also generates a genuine sense of community, which in turns drives the kinds of collaboration where businesses can feel a true benefit.

For an end-user, especially freelancers, entrepreneurs and those working for fledgling startups, the benefits they accrue are especially striking; 64% stated that their coworking space was an important source of work and business referrals, and 80% reporting they turn to other coworking members for help and guidance.

Users also noted that they find themselves ‘learning often’ and that they ‘continue to learn more and more as time goes by’ beyond what they would do in a more traditional setting, with 69% stating they’d learned a new skill, and 68% reporting they’d improved their skillset in their time at a coworking space.

And remarkably, 89% report that they are happier since joining a coworking space, which underlines the substantial impact this new way of work is already having on people’s lives.

Of course, it’s not solely entrepreneurs and freelancers who are reaping the benefits of coworking spaces, with increasing attention being paid to the industry by corporate clients, for whom the flexibility can be highly valuable.

Almost three in four of corporate respondents cite flexible working arrangements, the ability to quickly adapt to the need for more or less space, as a primary factor in their uptake of flexible and coworking spaces.

As a corporate client, you can quickly assign employees to work across numerous locations, with there being potential for someone to spend the majority of their week at a headquarters, with the remaining days at a coworking space. It’s this agility that drives the take-up for corporate clients.

And with the benefits that end-users of coworking spaces cite, from the expanded business opportunities, to opportunities to learn and grow their own skillset, indeed to their own personal happiness and sense of community, it’s far from a surprise that employees are more than willing to take this offer. In fact, 55% of users state that they see themselves working across a range of locations in the future.

And you can then envisage that, due in no small part to employee’s happiness and engagement, that clients of coworking spaces enjoy a heightened retention rate for key talent. And with the demand increasing for individuals with hyper-specific skillsets, businesses can hardly afford to lose key individuals due to dissatisfaction with their offices.

Ultimately, the trend towards coworking shows no sign of slowing. With roughly 21,000 individuals in the US using coworking spaces in 2010, to over 1.1 million in 2017. And with such a striking demand for more from end users, this is a seismic change when contrasted to what was expected of workplaces just a decade ago.