Once relegated to the basement or the attic, workers are finally finding their own downtown office amid growing coworking spaces. These a la carte office setups are giving digital nomads and the self-employed workforce the roots they need - and introducing an entirely new way of working to the corporate world.
Coworking spaces address the needs of the rising number of flexible workers. You can rent these shared workspaces as and when you need to. Whether you need to fire up your laptop for a couple of hours between meetings or want to use one on a more permanent basis, they offer a more professional environment than a coffee shop and an escape from your home office, without the need to pay for an expensive and restrictive office rental agreement.
You’ll also work with a community of like-minded individuals. Coworking spaces are a networking dream and those managing these spaces are careful to cultivate an inclusive environment where you can learn, network - or keep your head down if you need to concentrate.
Flexibility is ingrained at every point with coworking - from how often you need to use such spaces to how involved you want to be with the community or the services you need to use. It’s very much a work environment that’s tailored to you and your work.
Simply put, coworking has become a working phenomenon for freelancers, small businesses, job seekers, employees and careerists alike.
What does a coworking space look like?
Each one is different, but they usually contain a hub of desks where you can work with others, as well as dedicated meeting rooms and offices if you need a little more privacy. There are also communal eating and breakout areas where you can network and connect with your fellow coworkers.
Such spaces also offer style and substance. They are usually visually stunning and kitted out with a wealth of facilities to help you work more effectively and efficiently. For example, The Farm SoHo Coworking is based in New York’s vibrant Manhattan district, where space is a rare commodity. Yet, it offers 6,000 sq. ft of space to its community in its airy loft decked out with a rustic Americana vibe and some killer tech to ensure you have all the tools you need to get the job done.
Because coworking also provides you with all the facilities you’ll need. From superfast internet speeds to all the regular office amenities and free tea or coffee, it’s a far cry from your local coffee shop.
The Coworking Boom
Coworking is also going from strength to strength. The first results from the 2017 Global Coworking Survey show the coworking market is growing at a high rate with 13,800 spaces now open to 1,180,000 members around the world. Other research suggests coworking will grow globally to nearly 4,000,000 members by 2020.
Big businesses are also eager to embrace the coworking lifestyle. For example, employees from professional services company KPMG regularly cowork in London and New York to keep the company close to the startups that could one day scale up and become clients.
The further benefits to corporations are clear to see - employees spend less time commuting, which boosts productivity and spares the environment, and it reduces the bottom line through reduced real estate and associated costs.
It’s not the cost effective nature or cutting-edge tech that so many of these spaces offer that attract its members, it’s the communities they build. Lucas Seyhun, co-founder at The Farm SoHo Coworking, said: “All our members come to The Farm for different reasons, but almost everyone gets something out of the community we have cultivated. That could be a collaboration with another member or attending an event that introduces them to a new business concept or innovation - there’s always an opportunity to make a new connection and improve your work at a coworking space.”
Enabling The Digital Economy
Many criticize coworking for converting full-time work into part-time gigs - but there is a big upside. Coworking gives flexible workers “relief from the emotional demands of the corporate office”, according to research from user experience experts Melissa Gregg and Thomas Lodato.
It’s an important point. Coworking is addressing the needs of our increasingly digital workforce. It is predicted that by 2030, 10% of the largest US companies will be virtual businesses with less than one-in-ten of their staff will work in an office at any given time. Coworking is also a concept that all big businesses must consider as technology, innovation, and globalization redefine the very nature of employment.
Finally, the corner office is up for grabs at any one of the 13,800 coworking spaces around the world. What’s stopping you?
Gemma Church is “the freelance writer who gets tech”. A specialist journalist, blogger and copywriter for the science and technology sectors. Her USP is that she’s worked in the industries she writes about as a software developer and research scientist with two degrees in physics.