Seemingly overnight, Coworking operations have blossomed across the world like dandelions in a spring field. Coworking industry experts estimate that at least 120 Million square feet (1% of the US office market) is now devoted to Coworking. The growth of Coworking shows no sign of slowing and some industry experts believe that Coworking could comprise 5 -10% of the total office market within a few years.
What was a radical new offshoot of the “sharing economy”, more accurately defined as “Collective Capitalism”, has now become mainstream. In fact, the collaborative office environment typified by Coworking operations is also transforming the workplace in major, established companies, such as IBM, who have either contracted with Coworking operators, such as WeWork, to manage their collaborative spaces, or simply leased Enterprise space (50+ desks of dedicated space within Coworking-like facilities).
However, the vast majority of the over 1 Million people across the globe now utilizing Coworking space are startups, small entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and remote workers. While the growth of Coworking is obvious, the bigger question is Why??? What makes Coworking seem to be the “right” workplace environment for so many and how do you know if Coworking is right for you?
The Key Benefits that make Coworking the right choice can be summarized as:
- Scale – The reason Coworking memberships are dominated by startups, small entrepreneurs and solopreneurs and remote workers is because Coworking provides small teams access to larger scale environment. For the “Coffee Shop Guerrillas” of the world, sucking down free WiFi with their caffeine, at some point they decide to work out of a more professional location where they can host a meeting with an actual conference room and have access to printers, scanners, postage and other office equipment. True Coworking (as opposed to Enterprise space) probably works best for teams smaller than 15-20. Once your team grows larger, scale becomes a whole other issue. (See 5 Reasons Why Corporations Boldly Go Into Enterprise Space)
- Collaborative Environment – Call it a Millennial thing, but there certainly seems to be a stronger draw amongst younger workers to get things done in open, collaborative areas. Superficially, these collaborative spaces appear to be a big lounge or coffee shop. They typically feature a coffee/beer/nutrition bar adjacent to lots of overstuffed chairs, comfy sofas and long community tables where members hang out with open laptops and plugged-in headsets. In practice, these relaxed spaces with unassigned seating provide the perfect setting for random interaction between members from different teams with different backgrounds and varied skill sets. In essence, Collaborative spaces are the equivalent of creating Super Colliders in the workspace, where the quarks of innovation are released by the random interactions of members. While collaborative spaces may be more appealing to Millenials, the creative energy generated by these spaces has been recognized by their elders in many large corporations as highly beneficial. The current trend in office design is to engineer innovation and creativity through building workplaces that encourage random interactions and collaboration.
- Flexible Term – If you don’t know how long you want to stay in a particular location or just have committment anxiety, Coworking could be perfect for you. Most Coworking operations allow for month-to-month individual memberships and allow larger teams to limit their minimum term to 6-12 months. Note that additional concessions may be available if you’re willing to commit for 12+ months.
- Flexible Size – As Forrest Gump might have said (if he was a Coworking savant), “Size and term go together like peas and corn”. For growing teams and teams uncertain about their future size, Coworking can be the perfect fit. Most Coworking operations cater to growing organizations and have a variety of spaces configured to accommodate different team sizes. If your team outgrows the space available within your Coworking location, a flexible term and having the ability to move quickly will help facilitate your ability to thrive.
- Amenity Rich – Last, but not least, the “fun factor” of a friendly,work hard, play hard culture can be an important aspect of any workplace. Most Coworking operations host workshops (meetups with VC’s, etc.) to assist the growing companies within their communities, as well as learning luncheons and events to support the physical and psychic well-being of their members (i.e. massage therapy). Free beer, kombucha, and gourmet coffee are staples of the coworking industry. Many operations also have game rooms (with video games, ping-pong, etc.) meditation rooms, climbing walls, bocce courts, etc. While many members may have been initially attracted by the flexibility and collaborative environment offered by Coworking, they stay because of the great amenities available to their team.
So if you’re a Coffee Shop Guerilla, budding entrepreneur or growing company looking for flexibility, Coworking may be your ideal workspace solution.