Whilst the growth in membership in co-working spaces is staggering, growing more than 40% in 2017 alone, what’s more intriguing is the human aspect to these spaces and more so, how it can inform us about the future of work.
I recently spent more than five weeks working in various co-working spaces in both Australia and Hong Kong. Walking into these spaces , I was greeted by a variety of disparate individuals and groups who have chosen to pay (many out of their own pocket or using limited funding) to come together into these hubs. Many have perfectly good and more affordable options (work from home, libraries, cafes, etc.) but willingly choose to be a part of this community.
Taking away the free baristas made coffee, the free food, the foosball and table tennis tables, and you are staring blankly at an office space that is a collection of workstations/hot desks, offices and breakout spaces. Spaces that are potentially less sophisticated, no more technologically advanced and likely to be more costly than many corporate offices. Yet individuals and companies are coming in droves to be a part of something. But what is that something? Here’s what I observed:
Be a part of something bigger
Individuals are coming to these co-working spaces to be a part of something bigger. As one or two they feel vulnerable and isolated, but these spaces create a collegial environment, one where they feel motivated and inspired by those around them. They’re also able to build strong connections, building a network that is turbo charging the start up space. Connecting the dots is an important tool in expanding your reach well beyond your wingspan!
We know from a neuroscience perspective our brain craves a sense of belonging. Coming into a co-working site, a collective of individuals instantly becomes a community. A community that shares basic infrastructure, that consumes services and connects with each other, creating spontaneous relationships, ideas and synergies driving ideas forward.
The biggest reason I encountered to come into the co-working hubs was discipline. On their own many individuals found it difficult to be disciplined at home and could only concentrate for short bursts of time. In the co-working environment they’re able to disconnect their personal life from their business life, allowing them to dedicate the time they need to make both a success.
Motivation leads to innovation
Motivation is an important source of resilience. Everyone I encountered talks about their setbacks, the fact that no one sees their struggles or their hard work. But despite their failures, the inspiring success stories provides the backdrop of motivation. They are in a class of innovators, idea generators, change makers and they dream to be the same.
In fact, the level of creativity and innovation within these hubs is something worth seeing. It’s almost as if success breeds success – who would have thought!
In the event my general observations aren’t robust enough for you, then rest assured, there are many parallels between the above and the findings out of the 2016 Global Coworking Survey by Deskmag. It found the top five reasons (globally) to choose a coworking space was:
- Interaction with others
- A community
- Like-minded people
- Basic office infrastructure
- Random discoveries
There is a lot that can be drawn from the above in the context of the future of work more generally. Organisations are spending millions of dollars on workplaces in search of the next big idea; the level of investment made in office spaces is unprecedented.
In fact, the exponential rise of activity based working environments, innovation labs, collaboration spaces, agile spaces, think tank environments, etc. in an endeavour to generate value for the organisation and stay above the innovation line is incredible. But are they producing the level of results seen in these co-working spaces?
I see the key success of these co-working spaces as being their unwavering focus on people. Organisations more broadly can take learnings from co-working spaces, bringing together a variety of people, their attitudes, motivations and their drive to develop something is what will be the source of competitive advantage. Giving staff the space, the tolerance, the empowerment to take risks and the overarching premise of accepting failure is the cornerstone of innovation. We shut this down and no multi-million dollar office will deliver the level of value that is driven out of these co-working spaces.
To build the future of work, we need to focus on the human potential by evolving, changing and transforming our businesses. The future of work is more human than we think!
Later this year we’ll be releasing a report on the findings of our research into the co-working industry, looking at it from both an Investor and Occupier perspective. In the interim if you’re interested in finding out more about Future of Work, read our outlook on the changing world of work here.