• Marcel Varona

Reinventing the Office: Why the Modern Workforce Needs Coworking Spaces

In recent years, coworking has grown into a worldwide trend, reinventing the concept of both remote and office work. It’s more than a gimmick - the global flexible workspace market is now estimated at $26 billion. How does this happen? Is it just a fad? Like any other industry undergoing rapid disruption, It’s important to ask these questions before we make changes to our own organizational or individual workflows. Are we jumping on the train of the future? Or just the hottest bandwagon of the now?

The Trends

The 21st century has proven to be a time of evolving, ever changing technology. What would require a face-to-face meeting in 2000 could be replaced by a “you keep breaking up, can you say that again?” Skype call just a few years later. Now, working entirely remotely is a viable option as you could video call your colleagues reliably and even screenshare to show them what you’re working on. This rapidly evolving technology connects us together from a distance more than ever.

Lets also consider generational changes. Millennials are now growing into management roles and Gen Z-ers are moving into the workforce, influencing a change in overall attitudes towards work. A Forbes article states that freelance work lines up with these attitudes, as “it allows members of these generations to prioritize the things that are important to them”. What does this mean? Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2018 Report declares that the most appealing benefit of working remotely, with 43% of those surveyed responding with this answer, is flexibility of schedule. Millennials are selective about the companies they wish to be associated with, and freelancing provides opportunity to choose projects that are appealing to them.

Additionally, larger companies are shifting from permanent hirees towards “gig workers”, lowering overhead and costs. Specifically, “Sixty-six percent of large companies are using freelancers and other gig workers to lower labor costs”. Technology moving forward fast also means that the economy moves fast, forcing organizations of all sizes to remain agile and constantly embrace change.

As a result of those trends, the population of independent contractors, remote workers, and freelancers is growing. 33% of the U.S. workforce was independent/freelance as of 2015, predicted to grow to 40% by 2020.

The Human Consequences & The Coworking Solution

Living life on your own schedule is an attractive sentiment. Who wouldn’t want to choose what they do and when? However, it’s no secret that human’s need even a small amount of routine and structure. Without out it we’re prone to drowning in the unimportant details.

That’s where coworking spaces come in. Having a flexible but designated location to work from allows you to build routine and structure… but it’s still YOUR routine and structure. These spaces provide a separation between home and work without dragging you into someone else's form of structure. The world is catching on to this solution as a whole new generation of the workforce is learning the drawbacks to their ideals.

Further, several studies such as those mentioned in this Forbes article show that “feeling alone is becoming an increasingly common physical and behavioral health concern for which remote workers are acutely at risk”. It’s another fact of human nature that can’t be overlooked.

Again, coworking spaces: enter stage left. In a survey conducted by Raconteur it was found that a sociable and enjoyable atmosphere was top reason for choosing a coworking space worldwide, followed by interaction with others and community. Even if you aren’t the super social type, the flexibility of a coworking spaces provides the option to work in a solitary or collaborative space, depending on how you feel that day.

The Results

The coworking trend has been observed and studied extensively over the past few years and the results don’t lie. People are happy with this reinvention of the office. A 2015 article by HBR states “As researchers who have, for years, studied how employees thrive, we were surprised to discover that people who belong to them report levels of thriving that approach an average of 6 on a 7-point scale”.

The new workforce has shifted towards wanting independence and flexibility, and therefore also towards isolation and lack of structure. It’s yin and yang; you can’t have one side without the other. Coworking provides a solution. Built on a solid foundation of societal, technological and economic change, it appears this trend is here to stay.

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