For those less familiar with the coworking concept, the phrase might conjure up a stock image of millennial hipsters tapping away on their macbooks against a backdrop of exposed brickwork. But coworking is about much more than trend setting. The idea of diverse working communities that generate their own unique cultures, where people come and go at all times of the working day, is fast becoming the antidote to 9-5 cubicle culture.
Like so many ideas that were accelerated by the pandemic, coworking has been with us for a while. Ever since the last recession ramped up the number of freelancers and contractors, coworking hubs have been on the rise, occupying a niche space of the commercial market. In 2019 the market for flexible workspace was worth an estimated £19bn, but 2021 is the year coworking could go viral.
In the aftermath of Covid, people are reassessing what really works for them. For many, the switch to remote working was a lightbulb moment. While the ‘work hard, play hard’ culture kept people in the office for longer, it didn’t do much for family life, community spirit and building the interpersonal relationships that make us happy.
In a recent study by the BBC, over 70 percent of UK workers are wanting flexible remote working options to continue. With over 40 percent of the global workforce considering switching jobs this year, it’s not a fad that employers can afford to ignore. People will look for workplaces that reflect their individual priorities – and that means hybrid working will define the post-pandemic workplace.
50 of the UK’s biggest employers have already said they don’t plan to bring staff back to the office full-time. Companies such as Capita, Deloitte, Lloyds, HSBC and Metro Bank have closed many of their offices and introduced flexible, hybrid working – a mixture of home and office working – around a hub based model.
This has seen a massive increase from corporates making use of coworking spaces to accommodate remote satellite teams and workers. Coworking spaces are typically kitted out with state of the art meeting rooms, high speed internet and printing facilities. Companies can sign up for short term memberships, giving them access to a flexible range of office services and ensuring that all workers are given the tools they need to equally contribute.
But it’s not just the tangible assets that’s making coworking the preferred way to work. A Harvard Business Review Study showed that people thrive in these environments, reporting higher levels of productivity and satisfaction. Unlike a traditional office, coworking members work for a range of different companies, venture, and projects, generating a unique creative energy and a rapid exchange of ideas.
A lack of direct competition and/or internal politics mean that people don’t feel they have to put on a work persona to fit in. These spaces are about creating an inviting, collaborative, “community” vibe where people feel that they belong without having to “conform.” If Covid made people think about their individual needs, lockdown also highlighted a fundamental desire to collaborate and interact with others. Coworking gives people the choice, and options, to find the right balance for them.
Remote working has created new job opportunities, offered more family time, and provided options for whether or when to commute. But there are also challenges ahead. Teams have become more siloed this year and digital exhaustion is a real threat. For young people in particular, the social aspect of work can be something they miss out on with the working from home model. Coworking spaces are evolving to also incorporate cafes, coffee bars and gym facilities that allow members to take a break and rest during the working day. Such facilities also increasing social interaction and natural networking potential.
A recent workplace study showed that 64% of employees would pay for access to an office space rather than work from home, and 75% would give up at least one benefit or perk for the freedom to choose their work environment. This makes it likely that businesses will build coworking into their main budget, or give employees an allowance towards membership. There’s also the traditional attraction for freelancers, startups, contractors and entrepreneurs, with IPSE figures indicating a post pandemic boom in project work and a hike in rates.
Remote working also means that fewer people are migrating to cities in search of jobs. Boris Johnson recently announced an initiative to beef up adult education and skills training in “red wall” areas. Instead of moving to the city, the PM wants us to find better jobs in the communities where we were born and raised. The “levelling up” agenda has already seen massive investment in the North, with largescale green energy initiatives requiring a multi-skilled workforce. This redistribution of wealth, skills and jobs is likely to see coworking hubs of all shapes and sizes springing up in major towns all over the country.
neospace launched its flagship centre in Aberdeen in early May 2021, coinciding with the relaxation of lockdown restrictions. A concept 2 years in the making, neospace is a community offering a work.rest.play space solution under one roof. It’s a workspace offering its members the comforts of home, access to leisure facilities and a robust infrastructure to work efficiently. Ian Minor, Chief Operating Officer at neospace explains the concept further
Over the past year, no area has undergone more rapid transformation than the way we work. Employee expectations are changing and this is redefining the old productivity model, where long hours often masked burnout and mental health problems. Collaboration, wellbeing and flexibility are the answers to a better way of working that will underpin the country’s recovery – making coworking the space to watch in the post Covid landscape.