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Are Coworking Spaces Replacing the Corporate Office for Good?

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The pandemic has made a fundamental impact on the workforce by introducing millions of employees to the new habit and lifestyle of conducting work at home.

While some may have resisted the idea of mixing work and family life at first, people have embraced remote work and the benefits it provides. Some even plan on leaving their jobs if their managers won’t offer working at home, or at least a hybrid work model, as an option after the pandemic.

What makes this more interesting is that coworking spaces are growing rapidly despite the pandemic. These spaces offer the same resources available in an office space, yet people would rather work in a more flexible, open setting on a casual basis.

Already, many large corporate companies have transitioned to coworking; Davinci reports that over one-third of coworking space users are corporate workers.

WeWork, for example, counts Bank of America, Facebook, Microsoft, Salesforce, and Starbucks employees as members. One report even noted that close to 25% of WeWork’s annual revenue comes from corporate clients.

This brings up the question: what makes coworking spaces better than corporate offices? In the future, the benefits of flexible workspaces may outweigh returning to a corporate setting for good, and here’s why.

Benefits of coworking spaces

If you’ve never been inside of a coworking space, you probably won’t understand how different it is from a traditional office space. But take a quick visit to one of these facilities and you will immediately see their appeal.

While there are the obvious aesthetic attractions like fancy coffee machines and comfy lounge furniture, coworking spaces offer so much more than just a cool place to work outside of your home. For many, the benefits of coworking largely outweigh the environment of a traditional office, which is why so many corporations are making the switch to flexible workspaces for their employees on a global scale.

Autonomy

The last thing employees need is their managers breathing down their necks and asking them why they’re taking their (well-deserved) breaks when there’s more work to be done.

None of this happens within the confines of a coworking space. Members come and go at the space as they please, which in turn can lead to improved productivity. No longer do employees have to worry about the distractions from home.

It’s about the laid-back environment and sense of freedom workers have in coworking spaces that keep them engaged, focused, and coming back for more. This autonomy allows remote team members to take accountability for their work responsibilities. With the added freedom to get things done, employees have no excuse for not completing them on time, which should empower them to take pride in their work without much guidance.

But don’t mistake autonomy for isolation. Progressive companies that utilize coworking spaces maintain their culture and their cutting edge with strong internal communications. After all, remote work is about more than a physical location; it is also about the tools necessary to do the job.

Enabling remote work is all about keeping internal communications alive, promoting employee well-being by keeping them connected to their colleagues and vital information at all times. 

Collaboration

One of the most underrated aspects of coworking spaces is the opportunity to meet and make connections with people from different organizations and industries. It’s a way for workers to broaden their understanding of business, ultimately making them better at understanding their own company and the value of their role in it.

The coworking experience gives people real-world practice in curiosity, interpersonal communication, and collaboration. People who gain this practice then become better at the enterprise collaboration system you may have set up within your corporation. An enterprise collaboration system is a collection of information-gathering and communication technologies that let corporate employees interact and collaborate outside of traditional work silos – essentially breaking down those barriers.

A view of a coworking space in Bangkok.

Coworking opens up avenues for workers to adapt their working relationships so that both internally and externally, their professional collaboration skills develop, and they create effective working relationships beyond the narrow confines of their department. By proxy, all of this eventually benefits the employer.

As a simple example, let’s say a company is looking for a small, innovative agency to create some fresh strategies to generate leads in a new market. With so many individuals working in different fields, members of a coworking space are likely to have connections that fit the profile of the agency that’s needed.

Regarding employees, they can use this to help grow their careers by expanding to different specialties that pique their interests. For example, a salesperson who meets others within a coworking environment may find they have a strong interest in training, marketing, or developing loyalty programs. What they learn about those fields from coworking members can help them see how they could put that interest to work for your company.

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The broader exposure a worker finds in a coworking space provides a way for employees to grow and develop using their newly acquired interests and skills.

That said, remote work (and therefore coworking) is sometimes criticized for putting distance between workers within the same company. But in reality, this is the same challenge companies already face by creating their own departmental silos. 

Fortunately, the remedy is the same for remote work as it is for silos. It starts with leadership’s commitment to open communication, transparency, and appropriate delegation of responsibility, which is a philosophy, not a measure of distance. The principles of fostering teamwork and collaboration in the workplace remain the same; it’s just the communications tools that change. 

Socialization

Social skills are an essential part of the workforce. In some traditional offices, socialization can be tempered by politics, rank, and even culture. And for those who work exclusively from home, social skills can get rusty fast.

This is where a coworking space has an advantage over both a traditional office and a home office. First, coworking spaces typically arrange occasional social events so that members from all companies can meet each other. Everyone gathers as equals, and employees are free to mingle without worrying about their boss or office politics.

This provides an opportunity to make helpful connections and meet like-minded people who inspire and encourage you. It even gives teams a chance to meet cutting-edge entrepreneurs that can help your company move ahead more quickly. 

Outside of designated social events, no one is obligated to socialize. So, even though it’s a friendly environment, you’re free to focus productively on your work, and other members of the coworking location respect your need to do so. They won’t drop in to interrupt your progress like an office colleague or your boss might do in the company’s head office.

This mix of organized socialization times and focused productive time is the best of both worlds, and a significant benefit of coworking. 

Expanding personnel

Another advantage coworking spaces offer corporations is the opportunity to have branch offices in many locations without taking on the major expense of commercial real estate leasing. This makes perfect sense in times when corporations are looking to downsize the space they lease for their headquarters. 

In fact, the competitive shifts and decentralization that the pandemic has brought about so swiftly has allowed some companies to put representatives “on the ground” quickly in dozens of cities at once, bringing the corporation closer to their clients much faster than they might have envisioned just three years ago.

They can do this efficiently by using coworking spaces at prestigious addresses, fully equipped with reception services, conference rooms with Zoom capabilities, high-speed internet, and private offices.

Moreover, all of this can be accomplished at a cost that organizations can easily absorb from the new business they generate, while freeing them of all the risk and liability of owning a building. This is why coworking spaces are thriving, and why they appeal to companies of all sizes, from giants like Microsoft and Facebook to smaller, local firms, startups, and independent professionals.

For bigger companies, hiring for these new, remote branch offices is a specialty in itself. Fortunately, this need is served by the many SaaS software programs that offer HR specialists the latest technological advancements in this field, often taking HR capabilities for recruiting, screening, hiring, and onboarding well beyond anything that older software (i.e., what “everyone” used before the pandemic) could do. And interviewing can move beyond the virtual to a final in-person meeting, often held in the same coworking space that will house the new branch office.

While expansion at this dizzying rate would have been unthinkable until recently, companies can now compete more aggressively because of the advantages available to them using coworking spaces.

Conclusion

Coworking spaces aren’t replacing all corporate offices. But they are becoming more viable for employees who prefer the autonomy of working by themselves in peace and who benefit from the collaboration of working with other people from various industries to fuel their growth.

Corporate offices don’t have these principles as part of their structure, and some will insist that employees return to work at an office, putting things back as they were before.

However, not all organizations have the luxury of doing this, as many employees would rather resign. Instead, they can use coworking spaces near their employees to create a professional work atmosphere for hybrid or full-time occupancy.

This type of compromise that puts employees first is a change in corporate orientation, promoting freedom as a means of emphasizing results over everything else, and coworking spaces are an important component of that new direction.

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