We are in the midst of a cultural shift in how we work. The rise in popularity for co-working spaces is steering a new direction in work habits. However, what users expect and want from these spaces is evolving as the co-working trend gains further momentum.
The concept of collaborative or co-working spaces is not new. The idea of freelancers coming together under one roof emerged in the mid-1990s. However, it wasn’t until 2005 when the first named ‘co-working’ space opened in San Francisco.
The co-working concept has grown significantly over the past few years. Shared workplaces are now popular options for freelancers, micro business owners and emerging entrepreneurs seeking a desk, internet access and meeting spaces away from a home office or local coffee shop.
The University of Sydney reports more than 300 co-working venues are currently scattered around Australia. In comparison, there were just 60 in 2013. Most shared working spaces are in Sydney and Melbourne but more are opening in regional and suburban locations. An estimated 14,000 co-working spaces will be operating around the world by the end of 2017.
The user experience
For the time being, co-working space user needs are relatively straightforward.
Subsequently, shared working space design has, up until now, focused on amenity. Shared working venues tend to include open spaces; modern and appealing interior designs; and comfortable areas to meet and collaborate with clients or associates.
In speaking with various current clients of co-working ventures, we also found strong demand for WiFi and fast internet connections topped existing needs (alongside access to good coffee). Those users also lean toward accessing places which offer quiet rooms for confidential conversations.
“The energy of the space is also important – it needs to be motivating and uplifting.” –Clare, co-working space user.
Adapting to new demands
However, as demand and supply for shared work-spaces rise, customer needs and expectations will be more complex.
With many larger corporations also recognising the cultural and cost benefits of co-working arrangements, more people than ever before are able to work flexibly from shared spaces. Even Qantas recently announced plans to trial co-working corners in its Qantas Club Lounges.
As this shift in thinking continues, the co-working space market will become increasingly competitive. Co-working space providers will have to stay ahead of trends and developments in order to remain part of the game.
“Like any workplace, we gravitate to the people whose values and personality we share, and co-work spaces that are mature have host to help curate not just the space but the social capital of the space. A space is a living thing and it needs to be nurtured,” Kathy, co-working space user.
Connecting to the wider world
As users become more diverse, they will want better access to emerging office equipment and services such as connected and collaborative technology.
These workers will want to link and work with colleagues, associates and clients both locally and globally. They will want access to video conferencing equipment and interactive visual communications technology if remote working is to remain a viable option. Importantly, this technology needs be secure and offer safeguards to assure users their business discussions and ideas remain confidential.
Similarly, efficient desk and meeting room booking systems will be required to handle the demands of multiple users. As more individuals and companies get on board, the risk of double-bookings and over-bookings of work-spaces and rooms will increase. Reliance on manual or low-tech room booking methods will be no longer feasible.
Importantly, all office equipment needs to blend with the wider look and feel of the space and not take away from its amenity.
Therefore, in summary, we are likely to see a change in how the shared working space sector positions itself over coming years. As the sector matures, it will need ongoing strategies to adapt to new and emerging user demands. Without doubt, those spaces in the co-working industry who are early adopters of new trends will be the ones most likely to attract the biggest share of the user market.