From those who choose to co-work when running a remote team to growing start-ups and large corporations offering flexibility and autonomy, the spectacular growth of the co-working market seems to know no bounds. 

Linda Trim, a director at FutureSpace, a shared work space joint venture between Investec Property and workplace specialist Giant Leap, said that according to a Global Co-working Unconference, the largest co-working series in the world, forecast, by 2022 there will be 30 432 spaces and 5.1 million paid coworking members worldwide. 

She said: “The market shows an average annual growth rate of 24.2% since 2007 and is now less a way of working than a way of life.” 
So, what is behind the explosion and what does it mean for South Africa? 

“The are so many benefits to co-working,” said Trim. “As demands on workplace flexibility increase, corporations are turning to co-working to solve the problem of rising commercial space costs while staying agile.” 

She added that shared workspaces are an energising, open and supportive environment for those who are not ready for their own office or enjoy the flux and energy of shared space. 

“It is precisely this flexibility that is so attractive for small businesses and entrepreneurs as they build. For start-ups, the co-working solution ticks all the boxes of flexible, affordable space and a creative hub to foster new ideas and new business.”

The self-employed knowledge worker sector is growing too, bringing with it the need for hubs to provide social interaction, alternative locations than the cramped office desk or coffee shop and clusters of interaction for connectivity.

So, if this market continues to grow and thrive as all the signs indicate, what is its impact on innovation? 
For innovation to be successful, the ability to bounce ideas and to foster a culture of creativity is only part of the picture.

“Collaboration is also crucial to innovation, and it is precisely this element that co-working provides,” said Trim. “The need to build links has always been a key part of business, but open innovation speeds up development. This means networking with people both inside and outside of your organisation, making co-working a powerful catalyst.” 

Creating an incubator culture through co-working also has an impact on the speed of growth and success rate of start-ups. Co-working members grow through collaboration with the space operator where opportunities allow. That gives start-ups the chance to showcase their businesses to a wider audience that they may not otherwise have had access to.

“Start-ups fail slowly when they’re alone and can’t get impartial feedback. They fail fast when they have access to objective, well-intentioned feedback from fellow co-workers,” she added. 

“A high-quality shared office provider will recognise your business model and growth ambitions and offer a rich and compelling programme of networking events.”

By creating introductions and helping to build networks, entrepreneurs have more time to focus on innovation, which is often the motivation to run their own businesses in the first place. 

“As the co-working model continues to grow and diversify in South Africa, we can expect to see more opportunities and models for start-up open culture innovation around the country,” Trim concluded. 

By Linda Trim, a director at FutureSpace

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