Working Alone, Together – The Rise of Co-Working

“I have a dream’ – and it’s not to work 9-5 every day in an office till I eventually drop dead…

 

Sound selfish? Probably. First-world problems? Definitely. We’ve all heard the importance of maintaining a work-life balance, and we all know too well, that sometimes it is easier said than done. But the increasing flexibility and mobility enabled by technology, coupled with increasing standards of living are challenging the traditional workspace and bringing the potential of a work-life balance that much closer.

“Imagine a world where companies motivate and manage employees who never set foot in their corporate office” reads the opening statement of the Intuit 2020 Report; a report designed to outline key trends that will shape the next decade. Sound far-fetched? You obviously haven’t been paying close enough attention to industry trends then. Reports such as these suggest that nonstandard forms of employment are becoming commonplace in an increasingly individualised labour force where professionals are enabled to, and demand to have increased freedom and control over their workspace and workplace.

Digital Nomads find a haven in the rise of co-working spaces

With the rise of the digital era and skyrocketing globalisation, it’s easy to see how technology is empowering a mobile workforce; resulting in a dramatic rise of co-working spaces, remote workers, hot-desking and Third Spaces. With the cultural shift towards mobility, more people are parting ways with the traditional work environment with reports suggesting that in the US alone, over 40% of the workforce will be freelancers, solopreneurs or part-time independents by 2020. The concept of co-working evolved in response to these global trends and represents the pinnacle of this shift from traditional, corporate culture; offering a collaborative space where professionals across various fields and companies can come together to work while sharing space, ideas and knowledge. The growth of co-working spaces is staggering with numbers increasing by up to 700% since 2011 and around 37,000 employees are expected to work from shared workspaces globally by 2020.

The rise of the Corporate Refugee

If the image of a tie-dye clad freelancing blogger or a comic-book guy style IT worker still enters your mind when you think of remote co-working, then it’s time to get yourself up to date. While originally co-working was designed to facilitate “collaboration and support among traditionally isolated hierarchical businesses”, the well-documented benefits have led to many large corporations including giants such as Coca-Cola to explore these mobile possibilities.  Gone are the days of co-working spaces only offering isolated freelancers and remote workers some social connections and WiFi – industry reports have found corporates are encouraging their employees to swap their suits for jeans, with statistics suggesting that more than 80% of corporations plan to increase their use of the flexible workforce in the short-term future.

Are there more benefits than just great coffee?

WeWork, the world’s largest co-working company currently valued at US$16 Billion, only seven years after its 2010 founding has a simple company motto – To create a world where people make a life, not just a living. This sentiment rings true in the reported benefits of co-working. The Harvard Business Review investigated the factors that result in employees not only managing their co-working environments but thriving; measuring 6 out of a 7 point scale for business satisfaction and productivity. So, what’s the big deal? Apart from having great coffee and beer on tap, these spaces offer the opportunity for employees to have more autonomy; allowing them to craft greater meaning and purpose to both their work and careers.

 

While it’s easy to see how breaking free from the sterile rigidness of a corporate office can increase job satisfaction and motivation, working in a collaborative environment with professionals who they may not have otherwise encountered has reported multiple benefits. These spaces foster collaboration, innovation, networking and even recruitment that facilitate a level of productivity, innovation and idea generation between professionals across various fields that many note, they would not have had access to in a traditional work setting. Large-scale corporations have caught onto these benefits and state their main reasons for utilising co-working spaces as attracting and retaining talent, optimising productivity, facilitating innovation, using corporate space more effectively.

Where to from here?

Keen for the co-working life? If you’re a freelancer or a side-gigger, it’s easy! You lucky things never have to choose between work or travel – check out some of the world’s best cities for digital nomads right here. Startup? Consider signing up for an official co-working space, now operating across the Americans, Europe, South and North Asia and Australasia. Some of the largest companies are WeWork and Second Home. Already working for a corporate company? Ask them about their stance of mobile workforces or check whether or are already part of a corporate co-working scheme.

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