Advice and Opinion

Co-working spaces are the new industry disruptors


Since the co-working movement started in the US in the mid-2000’s, it has been estimated that the number of co-working spaces internationally has doubled each year with the model now disrupting office space rentals.

Successful co-working spaces have always been about building communities of ‘open source’ individuals who want to collaborate and to exchange ideas with other people in a socially interactive community. Fast forward nearly a decade and a half, co-working has become a business model which is shaking the traditional office environment to the core, especially with employees being able to access shared networks from anywhere in the world and no longer having to commute daily to work.

The old way: sign a lease for a few years and lock yourself into both space limitations and financial obligations, spend your capital to buy furniture and office equipment and then spend relatively unknown amounts of money each month for utilities and the added extras of running an office.

The new co-working way: bring your laptop or computer, plug in and play and, incur no additional costs other than a daily, weekly or monthly fee. No obligations to sign leases, no FICA requirements to fulfil and no need to lay out the capital to equip an office on your own.

In a co-working space, it’s the landlord who provides all the essentials from shared services and facilities which include the basics such as desks or even a private office, as well as rooms for meetings, training, seminars and product launches to copiers, telephone exchanges and cleaning, maintenance and reception staff. On the IT side, the most jacked-up venues will also include high speed fibre optic internet, video conferencing, biometric access and environmentally friendly lighting with motion sensors.

David Seinker of The Business Exchange notes that co-working spaces are no longer restricted just to solo freelancers or start-ups: “The concept is starting to make a great deal of sense to big business as well, with increasing numbers of corporates now looking either to create additional space for project-based work, or to test the waters before committing to permanent space, or even as an alternative altogether to permanent lease agreements.”

“Another plus for big business lies in one of the core values behind the origin of the co-working space – the opportunity to network with like-minded or complementary professions.”

This too, is becoming extremely appealing to larger companies as well, with disruption now key to the way in which businesses are evolving across many sectors, co-working spaces can also bring traditional corporates into contact with innovative start-ups (and the talented mavericks behind them) who are disrupting the business environment.

In the US, technology advanced corporations such as IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Alibaba, Samsung and Verizon are testing the co-working waters to be close to these disruptors. Closer to home, businesses are collaborating with co-working clients to fill the vacancies left in office blocks they own, setting the scene in turn for new business models for existing commercial landlords.

A further motivator for big business is that placing their own employees near hard-working industry innovators producing great ideas spur on their own staff to be more productive themselves. There’s a vibe and motivational focus to be found in co-working spaces that’s often missing from a traditional corporate environment. Not to mention the scalability that these offer professionals in operations across the board – from small and medium enterprises to large corporates – as business wanes and waxes with the current economic climate.