Think more regionally and by specialization.
2020 has frequently raised one major question, resoundingly repeated by property investors, office space owners, and coworking facilitators, “Is coworking dead??”
No. Consider that it has been addressing and trying to solve the wrong problem.
The flaw of co-working was that it is mostly generically applied. It’s usually just deck/office for coworkers. Some places have tried pushing a uniqueness to it… “For startups” for example.
Frankly, there is no recurringly sustainable demand for such things. People aren’t mostly there because they need a desk (or that they need it for long if they do); they’re largely there to network and get out of the house and into a community. The challenge in that is that in time, coworkers have met most of that community; in the end, we all really just need to get to work as productively as possible
The Way We Work is Evolving
We evolved work from the Industrial Revolution, and awful work conditions that though were created to fill the demands and needs of the era. As companies replaced sole proprietorships (think back further to how everyone use to work for themselves – as boot makers, accountants, bar owners, etc.), and technology changed the need for labor on farms, industry put people to work in office buildings and spaces; it was the next and understandable evolution of workspace out of necessity of the time.
Industry evolved; from sole proprietors, to cogs in the manufacturing machines, to drones in companies and in many respects, it was that era from assembly line through gray cubicals that we might look back on as the “Dark Ages of Work.” People demanded better working conditions and unions emerged, wage disparities started to close and it was no longer acceptable to put children to work. We evolved and for a time, that new work environment was celebrated.
Coworking emerged to serve demand from people to work in other ways.
Intriguingly, MBO Partners forecast then (when I wrote that in 2013) that by 2020, 60% of the workforce in the United States will be “unteathered” to a corporate office. At the time, only 30% of people working were unteathered. oDesk, then, too asked in survey: 72% of job holders in companies have a desire to be independent. Evolution. Or Revolution?
71 percent reported a boost in creativity since joining a shared work space and 62 percent reported that their standard of work had improved. Also 64 percent were better able to complete tasks on time and 90 percent reported an increase in self-confidence because they now worked in a supportive community.
Who could have seen that 2020 would have us all working from home??
So is Coworking dead?
It’s unfathomable. People don’t want to go back to that cube. We’ve not only evolved to the next stage of how we work, 2020 brought forth the the revolution.
“The most interesting thing is the people and the evolution of people in the way they’re valued in the workplace. The Eighties was a very transitional time for people, we were coming out of the 70s, where people got whatever they wanted in the 80s we hit a recession,” shared Workscape Designs’ John Baran. “Things got more budget-oriented, manufacturers started discounting, really, really low. In the 70s, there was no such thing as a discount; their published list price was pretty much the price that you paid. In the eighties, we saw discounts all the way down to 50%. Then in the 90s, what I saw was, is if you were a talented person, they paid you. It wasn’t about the workspace nearly as much as finding talent and paying them. So we had all these jobs. And we’re looking for talent. Now we have a surplus of jobs, right. And people are trying to decide where they want to work. You go back to the early 1900s people were glad they had a job. They had a desk, an in-tray and out tray, and an ashtray. And they were in an open room. Everybody could see everybody that was the first open workplace. Nowadays people want to feel good about where they work, and how they feel. So now companies can’t just lure them with money. They have to create this work environment that’s consistent with the way they want to work and the way they want to feel. So that’s the biggest change. Now we have to create these environments to attract people to come to work. That’s never been the case before.”
It has to be meaningful.
What Problem Does Coworking Solve? What Problem Should it Solve?
Coworking spaces sit empty. Office parks are vacant. Companies are planning to keep some home, indefinitely. And so the question is asked, is coworking dead?
Why are you spending money for a desk when there is one for free at the coffee shop across the street, or back home??
Startups, in particular, paying for space, just to network, is … I don’t know… use your favorite word… a wise investment?
Okay, so what does work?
Regional use of space and specialization.
Think healthcare, as an example. Cities’ major healthcare services tend to all be in the same part of town.
Co-working but not just in *a* space. Why? Because shared resources and infrastructure. Easier access. And a network of people that matter to the WORK, not just random people out of convenience.
Finance tends to be the same way (i.e Financial District). Media too, need for studios, creatives, etc.
We’re all, in media, familiar already with the important role space plays in our work; with the studio or venue space being paramount to the impact we have – it’s the buildings and structures in the broader sense that drive our economy in the right direction. “Hollywood comes to mind as an epicenter of where the use of space defines the economy. As we dig deeper we can see that happening elsewhere with new media,” noted John Zozzaro not long ago. “Chicago is building the full stack at 2112. Nashville has taken a lead in music innovation with their incubators and accelerators. Adelaide Australia’s Musitec has been working with the city to develop unique public-private-non-profit partnerships. Even New Orleans is being reinvented down on Bourbon Street, which was cited recently taking note of Austin’s nightlife.”
Built to Suit space, regionally planned with cities and economic development offices, purposeful development, and coworking for a reason, matter.
Coworking based on WHAT people are doing, not the stage at which they find themselves nor merely for convenience or networking.
People will travel to the right part of town for the work. They’ll pay for space and be there when the people there are doing related things. People will cowork when doing so actually meaningfully impacts their business.
For the most part, the attempts at it so far haven’t done that. So people go home and question going back. Validly.
Get to know a bit better how our friends at Workscape Designs appreciate the history and evolution of how we work
Invest with us in Meaningful Space
That is the future of coworking. And not just in investing with us but in the notion of investing together with those that are industry specific and focused – meaningful to the workforce therein.
Develop that finance, banking, crypto, FinTech, security shared space so that entrepreneurs, technology professionals, bankers, and more IN THE SAME SECTOR, can leverage the benefits of being near the companies, resources, and peers meaningful to that work.
Talk with us about your Arts initiatives, the role of media in your city, and the demands and opportunities in developing News, Advertising, Podcasting, and Video Games, as an experience for the culture and community of your economy.
Coworking is evolving, from collaborative community space demanded by people leaving the office, to meaningful space that enables the economy to thrive. People are ready to get back to work, literally and physically.