ENTREPREUNERS, start-ups, freelancers, gig economy workers and large corporate companies used to call everything from coffee shops to kitchens right through to airports an office.
But today, they have a new option to add to the list: co-working spaces or pro-working spaces as shared work spaces have come to be called. “There is a lot businesses can learn from their global rise,” said Linda Trim, a director at workplace specialist firm Giant Leap.
Shared workspaces operate in a variety of ways. At a basic level, people can claim seats for a daily fee, rent out rooms at a monthly or annual cost or pay for a monthly membership to sit anywhere in the common areas. But pro-working spaces are more like a mixture between five-star hotels and luxury business lounges. They offer the best of everything you could want in an office from concierge services, personal assistants and the latest communications technology.
“Shared work spaces give the old-school office plenty to envy in terms of cross-pollination between workers, flexible location and community,” she said.
In a pro-working space, electrical engineers sit next to marketers and entrepreneurs sit next to programmers. There could be dozens of different businesses in one shared office at any given time. To inspire similar levels of mingling, offices could start a game of musical chairs.
“Instead of the legal department in the legal room, mix them up with accounting for one day a week,” said Trim. “From that proximity, they can strategically interact and collaborate.” She added that: “People are happier in bright open spaces with good acoustics, proper lighting and air flow where they’re making social connections, not just a desk to work at.” People in co-working spaces rate their level of “thriving” – defined as their vitality, learning and work performance – an average of about six on a seven-point scale, according to a study in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, far higher than in traditional offices.
One of the major selling points of the co-working environment is the flexibility and location independence that users can enjoy. “To attract and retain a competitive workforce, those features can be adopted in traditional offices too,” said Trim. “In co-working offices that effectively balance focused, quiet space with collaborative space, workers say they feel innovative.” The depth of pro-working amenities can also draw people in. If you have special technology like state-of-the-art video conferencing or just a really good private space that’s reserveable, it makes the space hugely appealing. Good coffee and food is a must too.
Some pro-working spaces are beautifully designed and more like presidential suites than offices, making them places people want to hang out it in. While good design is important, one of the most crucial parts of a shared space isn’t as visible. “Community management is a major component of what makes these spaces come alive and valuable to users,” said Trim. “People make invaluable contacts, secure contracts and greater knowledge just from being in a co-working community. Select pro-working offices also hold frequent, free educational and learning events, which are greatly skill- and career-enhancing.”
Linda Trim is a director at workplace specialist firm Giant Leap.