The way we work is changing. I am currently typing this @28,000 feet on an Emirates A380 on my way to Dubai with a G&T in hand (I’m not but I could be). Technology has largely enabled me and an estimated 1.3 billion others world-wide to work more flexibly and more remotely than ever before. With the smartphones in just about everyones pockets now millions of times more powerful that all of NASA’s combined computing in 1969 and WIFI due to be put on the moon shortly (possibly); it is fair to say people and businesses are more connected than ever before.
Technology has largely enabled me and an estimated 1.3 billion others world-wide to work more flexibly and more remotely than ever before
Of course it hasn’t only been the enablement of technology that has increased the demand for flexible working, equally important are the business forces supporting flexible working. CBRE’s annual global occupier survey has tracked over the past number of years the increasingly employee-centric workplace strategies put in place by corporates, much of this centred around the recognition that in-house workspace must be flexible and collaborative, while the Monday-Friday chained to your desk culture is no more. Employees need and expect the ability to work remotely as and when required.
Companies now see the benefit of this arrangement. With the average fixed desk space in London costing around £18k per yer, there is obvious benefits for companies to increase desk sharing and eliminate under-used assets. However all companies whether large or small are also increasingly using flexible working as a way to attract and retain the talent they need and with various studies showing both higher productivity and higher job satisfaction levels, then it is win-win all round.
The growth of coworking
But what about coworking? (key point for reference here, apparently co-working is never to have a hyphen). The buzz of coworking shared office space is at an all time high at the moment. Here in the UK, the industry big-boy WeWork just recently laid out plans to double its already considerable presence in London by the end of next year. But if coworking in its simplest terms is ‘the use of a working environment by people who are self-employed or working for different employers, typically so as to share equipment, ideas and knowledge’, then the concept itself is nothing new. However what has changed is that coworking spaces as part of the wider serviced office / flexible space sector which grew 32% in the UK in 2015, has become not only a viable option for small businesses, entrepreneurs and the independent / freelancer workforce; but corporates have also seen the benefits of placing staff, or even whole teams within coworking spaces. More than just a cost thing, corporates recognise the benefits of tapping into hubs rich with entrepreneurial or tech talents to solve live business issues.
Coworking (still without the hyphen) is becoming a more viable option for many. In contrast to serviced offices, coworking spaces are largely open plan and collaborative with the best ones more than just a place to get your work done, but built around the creation and maintenance of an active community and support network that members can benefit from and are unable to get from working at home or at their local coffee shop.
The rise of the disgruntled commuter
So what does all this mean. For me, personally I have been fascinated with the rise of coworking. I currently fall into the category of p*ssed off commuter not keen on travelling into London every day if I don’t have to and don’t always find my home the most productive of workplaces for various reasons. I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is and set up my own coworking group in my home town of Maidenhead in Berkshire. With the first coworking day now successfully held and the next ones in the diary; there were three things that stood out for me:
there was an immediate understanding built between fellow coworkers about when to work with heads down and when to chat across the group
The variety of people that turned up keen to cowork – from your local freelancers to consultants and business owners, guys just starting a business to commuters keen not to have to brave GreatWestern rail on a Friday. We even had an inventor who rocked up with no computer but was keen to show off his new stick-on greeting cards idea.
There were no formal rules established with a number present having never officially at least ‘coworked’ before. However there was an immediate understanding built between fellow coworkers about when to work with heads down and when to chat across the group.
Finally we did manage to break the cardinal sin of coworking in week one with Wifi issues for an unlucky few. Apparently over-zealous security certificates.
What next? More coworking – for those of you reading in and around the #Maidenhead area, please feel free to join us for our regular meet-ups