Co-working's Going Mainstream. Here's What You Should Know.
Research shows that people working in co-working spaces are 75% more productive than those working in a traditional offices. That benefit—and others—is pushing this once niche product into the mainstream. Here's what you should know.
An innovative new co-working space in New York, Civic Hall created by Personal Democracy Media’s Andrew Raseij and Micah Sifry has only been open nine months and already has 600 members for 150 seats, according to NY Tech Meetup executive director Jessica Lawrence (whom we snapped bookended by co-speakers Knoll Inc director of research Kylie Roth and Knoll's director of market development, Nicole Mirchandani, at CoreNet Global's big annual conference on disruptive innovation at the LA Convention Center in Downtown LA earlier this week.
Civic Hall operates like a gym membership and is limited to government and civic-minded tech innovators. She notes that not everyone who belongs actually works there. “The network is more valuable to some people than the actual desk space,” she says, pointing out that everyone who is a member can see what’s going on by tuning into Civic Hall’s digital channel on Slacker Radio.
Jessica says the top characteristic of successful co-working spaces is a diversity of workspace choices to accommodate various work activities. Civic Hall has both separate quiet rooms for concentrating on projects or meeting with clients and open communal areas where people can collaborate, brainstorm, socialize and hold events. The most used spaces are traditional phone booths, where people can make private calls, and quiet rooms, she says.
Communal spaces, which include gathering or social spaces indoors and out, open work areas and kitchens or cafés (pictured is Cambridge Innovation Center cafe) where people take coffee breaks or eat, provide opportunities for users to connect—bump into others with complementary talents and form relationships.
Jessica, who works out of both Civic Hall and a WeWork, says co-working spaces take on personalities, depending on the occupants and amenities offered. Civic Hall, for example, downsized desk space to provide greater communal access and amenities, giving it more of a community feel (Fido is welcome too) than WeWork, which has more separate office spaces than communal areas and might appeal to attorneys and others who need a private space. In determining how much room there should be for each type of space, she suggests a 50-50 balance of private and communal spaces.
Amenities can be anything members desire, says Knoll market development director Nicole Mirchandani, who works out of the Cambridge Innovation Center in St. Louis, which serves food and has a child day care. She notes that most co-working spaces have a keg on tap, but her facility has a bar. Nicole says the facility’s busiest time of day is around mealtime.
According to Knoll research, the work environment and company culture are increasingly important to workers—particularly Millennials—so much so that half of all job applications visit glassdoor.com, which provides company reviews, prior to accepting a job offer, says Knoll research director Kylie Roth.
Kylie’s study found that people working in co-working spaces are 75% more productive than those working in a traditional office, and 80% of are there primarily for networking opportunities—serendipitous or planned. “These facilities emulate startup vitality, and the people occupying them are looking for an environment that is disruptive, fresh and exciting to build the next big [thing],” she says, noting that two-thirds of them are male.
As a result, Nicole says that companies are establishing co-working facilities on their own campuses, often in underutilized facilities, to gain an advantage in recruiting and retaining talent and to improve productivity and job satisfaction. Some examples: Capital One, Airbnb, LinkedIn, Microsoft, BBC, PayPal, Samsung, Boeing, Plantronics and Skype, to name a few, as well as tech companies and colleges and universities. With academic institutions establishing co-working spaces, college grads are entering the job market with the expectation of working in a collaborative environment, she says.
“Some companies are encouraging their people to work out of co-working spaces to spark new ideas and expose them to different types of people,” continues Nicole. “Others are taking space at places like WeWork because they see the value of their employees working alongside startups—to expose them to innovators. Still others are planting recruiters in co-working facilities to recruit talent and innovative ideas.
Jessica noted that 79% of independent professionals report being happier than when working in a corporate environment. She suggested that the market for co-working spaces is growing exponentially. Over the last five years, the number of people working solo increased from 7% of the workforce to 12%. By 2020, an estimated 40% of the workforce, or 65 million people, will be self-employed entrepreneurs, freelancers and contract workers.