What exactly is a co-working space? Well, perhaps fairly self-explanatory, but it is a space in which workers share an office. It offers an environment whereby people can work collaboratively in a shared area. They provide a work environment and generally, office equipment and services characteristic of a typical workplace, such as WiFi, 24/7 access, conference and board rooms, shared printing and copying facilities and common kitchen areas etc. They offer affordable office space for those looking to escape the isolation of a home office or coffee shop.
It used to be that co-working spaces offered start-ups a cheaper alternative to office buildings, but it seems that they are now becoming the space of choice for startups and larger, more mature organisations alike. So, why are they becoming so popular?
An incredible 63% of UK employees work flexibly and so gone are the days of your typical 9 – 5 in an office space. Employers have smartened up to the fact that flexible working is all about work/life balance and by offering alternative solutions to their employees hours and location they can, in fact, get a great deal more from their workforce than they do from the typical 9-5 rigid office routine. Research also demonstrates that candidates and employees are seeking greater flexibility in the workplace – They want to be able to dictate their place of work and their own work schedules. They want autonomy and freedom. Co-working spaces forgo the traditional, rigidity of conventional office spaces, in favour of a more dynamic and convenient (especially in terms of location) environment.
If you’re a start-up or a freelancer working on your own, it can be really quite isolating and lonely working from home. Of course not everyone feels this and in fact, some people absolutely love the silence of a home environment but others struggle without contact with the outside world. It’s nice to be able to chat with someone or share an issue with them. They may be able to help with a tough decision or could offer motivational input. Shared spaces can create a sense of community and this can be invaluable support for younger companies. Connections with other people and other businesses can be a huge reason as to why people pay to be part of a space.
If you’re based in a typical 9-5 office, there can be a feeling of having to fit in whereas in a co-working space socialising isn’t compulsory or forced.
Because visitors to co-working spaces are from all different walks of life, i.e. different backgrounds, businesses and suchlike, there is little direct competition or company politics, they don’t feel the need to put on an act to fit in. These individuals also have a strong sense of community and are very willing to help one another out. It aspires collaboration and learning, it’s not simply about ‘going into work’.
Co-working spaces are usually accessible 24/7. People can decide whether to put in a long day when they have a deadline or want to show progress, or can decide to take a long break in the middle of the day to go to the gym. They can choose whether they want to work in a quiet space so they can focus, or in a more collaborative space with shared tables where interaction is encouraged.
So, it's important to consider here the implications for traditional companies? Even though co-working has its origins among freelancers, entrepreneurs and the tech industry, it’s increasingly relevant for a broader range of individuals and companies. In fact, co-working can become part of your company’s strategy, and it can help your employees and your organisation thrive.
It's also equally important to create the right kind of work environment inside your already existing office environment. But this doesn’t just mean creating open plan layouts or adding a lounge area! Ensure you give your employees control and flexibility in their work environment. You could think about hot-desking or mixing teams up for example – There’s many opportunities to create this type of environment within your current workspace.
Research suggests that a combination of a well-designed work environment and a well-curated work experience are part of the reason people who co-work demonstrate higher levels of thriving than their office counterparts. So my advice to traditional companies who want to learn from the co-working space is to ensure your team has the best space possible and support to do their very best. This is part of your company culture and will contribute to its success in terms of boosted morale, motivation and as a result increased productivity.
If you would like advice on this subject or any other area of your HR or people strategy, then contact me now on: 01453 297557 or email firstname.lastname@example.org