We are undoubtedly living in an entrepreneurial age. More than ever before, people are eschewing the constraints of the nine-to-five in favour of working for themselves, starting a business or going freelance. According to a 2018 study, a third of all US workers will soon be made up of these nontraditional career paths.
As a result, there has been a boom of co-working spaces around the world that offer people the opportunity to pay for desk space per day, week or month and provide a flexible work environment which can accommodate their needs as the business grows.
The Benefits of Co-Working Spaces
There are a number of benefits to working in a co-working space – including access to things like meeting rooms and locations which are often in the city centre. It is also the opportunity to share a space with other entrepreneurial-minded people and discuss ideas and inspirations with.
The design of co-working spaces tends to gear towards the egalitarian (that people deserve equal rights and opportunities). There are usually neither cubicles nor private offices – everyone is sharing a desk regardless of their role at the company. This is important not just to create a sense of camaraderie but also because it allows for people who work in different sectors and industries to interact on a regular basis.
Rob Shapiro is the VP of Product at Muck Rack, a public relations service which is based in a coworking space in New York. He said: “The fact that you can run into people outside of your day-to-day team, allows you to learn more about what other people are working on and always keeps things interesting. You don't always have to go to a networking event to engage with people at other companies, which is nice.”
But recent events have meant new measures need to be taken.
The New Office and Sharing Space Safely
The Covid-19 pandemic has seen an increase in interest in co-working spaces, and companies that traditionally used fixed premises for their teams are looking for more flexibility in the spaces that they opt for. Rather than having a permanent premises that are large enough to host all of their employees, they are looking at local co-working spaces that they can use for punctual meetings and training.
So could this mean that co-working spaces are set to evolve to accommodate freelancers and entrepreneurs as well as corporate companies under the same roof? Or will specific on-demand style offices be generated to target these companies?
Either way, one thing that has had to evolve, and rapidly so, are the measures being taken by the owners of the co-working spaces and those using them in order to ensure the safety of all during the new normal. This means that following the protocols and guidelines set by your local authority, something which companies like Mindspace have done successfully.
In relation to Covid-19, shared spaces and air conditioning, Representatives of European Heating and Ventilating Associations (REVA) suggests that systems with return ducts or that recirculate air should be avoided. It's essential that proper ventilation and air renewal are observed whether you're in a building with air conditioning or not. To see more of what please REVA and other official associations have said, please refer to our recent article about the new normal and air conditioning for more information on Covid-19 and preventative measures that can be taken.
Using Creativity to Maximize... Creativity
Aside from meeting a variety of like-minded people, . These are spaces that look nothing like the bland, corporate offices we are used to, and for people trying to get creative about their careers, it can feel like the perfect externalisation of their ambitions.
Bright, comfortable furniture, airy spaces, industrial-chic decor and an inordinate amount of plants are common themes among some of the most popular co-working spaces across the world today.
Dari Schechter is the managing creative director at Mindspace, a co-working space brand with locations from Tel Aviv to Bucharest and San Francisco. She joined the company at the point of inception and has been instrumental in creating its look and feel. She works with up and coming artists to create custom pieces for each space and sources vintage items like record players and books to create the feeling of being in an inspiring, yet comfortable space.
“I’m a person who is very sensitive to my environment, so I know how much design affect your mood and creativity,” she says. “It’s important to think about the bigger picture, but also the small things – having comfortable sofas if people need a rest, have a quiet room where people can make a call, and a kitchen where employees can really relax and enjoy their lunch.”
The business dynamics of a co-working space encourage this attention to detail: in a traditional workplace, the employers involved in the design hold all the cards, while in the co-working industry the clients are the people using the space, so creating something highly appealing to workers is crucial.
Co-working businesses are often targeting young people in metropolitan cities who have an interest in innovation, so it’s important that they make the right impression. Entrepreneurs want to work in a space that feels – to clients, investors and employees – like an extension of their own creativity.
Design for Success
Uncommon is a co-working business with spaces across London. Co-founder Tania Adir believes their design has been instrumental in their success. “You just need to walk into one of the spaces to see and feel the impact of the design – from the thousand plus plants, the bespoke scents and the bright natural light,” she says. They also carefully curate music choices to create a more unique experience.
Clearly the re-imagining of the workplace is having an impact. Recent figures show that the number of coworking members will rise to 3.8 million by 2020 and 5.1 million by 2022, while 84% of people who use coworking spaces are more engaged and motivated.
Anis Qizilbash is an author, motivational speaker and entrepreneurship coach. She encourages startups to join a co-working space mainly because of the social benefits of an open plan workspace, but she also agrees that the aesthetics are important: “Productivity and performance are linked to your wellbeing and satisfaction,” she says. “An aesthetically pleasing and relaxing environment can certainly help entrepreneurs feel inspired and spark inspiration.”
While countless freelancers and entrepreneurs are seeing some value in this new style of workplace, not everyone agrees it will remain that way. Harry Simons is a partner at design firm MPL Interiors. He’s been designing offices for some time, and sees co-working as an interesting option, but thinks the style that’s currently appealing won’t remain on-trend for long.
“When we hit saturation point and co-working spaces feel 'tired' and identikit, we will see that departure to more eclectic and informal styles, with creative touches and flexibility,” he says. “Working trends change, employee dynamics change and technology changes – this means a fresh approach to every project is needed, with a healthy dose of future-proofing thrown into the mix too.”
For the moment though, it appears that co-working spaces have managed to build a creative, productive and aesthetically on-trend product where everyone wants to be. As long as the striving for innovation doesn’t stop, their ubiquity and success needn’t either.