What the Corporate World Can Learn from Coworking

WeWork‘s recent $5 billion valuation has put coworking in the spotlight. Our favorite shared space guru, Liz Elam, digs into why you should care. Scroll for the story, then join us for a webinar presented by Liz, during which she’ll further explore coworking’s “secret sauce” and how you can implement some coworking moves in your own space.

Coworkers coworking at Surf Office in Santa Cruz, a beach villa/coworking hybrid. Photo via thesurfoffice.com
Coworkers coworking at Surf Office in Santa Cruz, a beach villa/coworking hybrid. Photo via thesurfoffice.com.

WeWork’s recent $5 billion valuation has been fantastic for the coworking industry: because of it, the media spotlight is on a revolution that has been quietly taking shape for nearly a decade. Coworking spaces first appeared in about 2005 and have spread steadily—and stealthily—since then. Now, ten years later, and thanks largely to WeWork’s rapid growth, coworking is having its well-deserved moment in the sun.

What is coworking?

Imagine a beautiful, open space that is comfortable, thoughtfully planned—a haven for today’s independent (or displaced) workers. There’s good coffee and snacks, often gratis. People here are inspired by each other, hire each other, and emit a deep satisfied sigh when they walk through the door. Welcome to the world of coworking.

A kitchen at WeWork’s Chinatown location in D.C. Photo by Natalie Grasso.

Why now?

  • Technology

Our way of doing business has changed dramatically in recent decades. We now have the ability to take our work with us; we are not longer tethered to an office space. How many of us find ourselves answering emails in the checkout line at the grocery store or booking meetings on the fly? Workers finally have the ability to choose where they work, and they’re choosing coworking.

  • Independent workers

Usually, when the country comes out of an economic downturn, we see workers who left corporate jobs return to them for security and stability. Yet, when the market recently surged back, we didn’t see the expected return to corporate jobs. People chose to stay independent. According to Steve King of Emergent Research, we will see over 40 percent of the population working independently by 2020.

  • The flight to home offices

Corporations are sending employees home in record numbers to save money. Yet, home is not the ideal workspace. It is full of distractions, which drain productivity. Home should be a haven from the workplace, not the workplace itself. The solution? Coworking.

Coworkers get down to business at Link Coworking in Austin, Texas. Photo by Liz Elam's.
Coworkers get down to business at Link Coworking in Austin, Texas. Photo by Liz Elam.

What’s in coworking’s “secret sauce”?

The hidden benefits to corporations who embrace coworking are enormous. Employee attention, productivity, retention, and job satisfaction are critical factors, especially in burgeoning industries like tech where there is white-hot competition for skilled workers.

Here are four ways coworking can help, whether a corporation is looking to make coworking an option to their employees, or to integrate some of coworking’s secret sauce into their own workplace:

  • Proximity

When you work in isolation at home or in a coffee shop, you don’t interact with others around you. In coworking spaces you work around other people who can inspire you, challenge you, and sometimes even teach you something.

Not ready to let employees off the leash just yet? Then try creating an open work area in your existing space and don’t assign space to people based on their jobs. Let them choose where they want to sit.

  • Nuanced open plans

For an open plan to work you need to consider both the extroverts and introverts in your organization. No matter how extroverted, people may need some private space to take a breather. You will need space for breakout meetings. You will need space for people to take phone calls. You will likely need some professional help with sound engineering. You should incorporate desk space, lounge space, and collaborative space into your open space—this is part of the appeal of many well-considered coworking spaces.

  • Flexible furniture

Interested in boosting creativity? Then switch things up. Being stagnant is just that: stagnant. Change-up the furniture arrangement. Buy flexible furniture on wheels that can be used for sitting or standing.  Bring in lounge furniture that is comfortable and easy to move. People find it boring to come to the same layout everyday. If you’re not ready to implement furniture movement, move the smaller objects in the space around. The flowers don’t always need to reside on that table because they’ve always been there.  Think outside the box—literally.

  • Community management

You can give the space the right “look” or adopt an open layout, but if you don’t have someone actively managing the space and community it will only ever be a good looking space. You need a human that can facilitate events, curate space management and keep things fresh.

Humans are the secret sauce of coworking. Coworking spaces get this: most of them have community managers. People need help connecting and need to be heard. Your community manager can make that happen. In our disconnected, device-driven world having a space where people can find a respite from their hectic lives and get actual work done in an inspiring space is priceless.

Want to learn more? Join us for a webinar with Liz Elam below. She’ll dig deeper into coworking’s “secret sauce” and how you can implement some coworking moves in your own space. 

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