According to Forbes Magazine, at the end of 2017, there were nearly 1.2 million people worldwide that have used shared workspaces. With more than 130 locations in more than 20 countries and 100,000 members WeWork is the leader in providing share workspace. Shared space is dominated by freelancers, remote workers, and other independent professionals but has made inroads with large corporations. IBM recently signed a deal to lease all of the WeWork shared space at 88 University Place in Greenwich Village, NYC.
There are differences in what are called “shared working spaces” and “coworking spaces”. However, in this flexible and emerging market the line is blurred between the two. Other than taking note that these spaces are going mainstream as evidenced by the IBM deal, the main benefits and objectives are not intended to duplicate big corporations. In fact, there is little direct competition or internal politics which makes collaboration easier. Although everyone has their own projects, there is little resistance to helping each other out. That’s definitely lacking with a home office. Group access to modern office equipment is something else often lacking in many home offices.
Shared workspaces are also scalable which is a big benefit to startups, sole proprietors, and growing companies. You may start out needing only a desk, internet connection, and access to snacks and coffee. Soon you find a need to expand to shared supplies, meeting rooms, office equipment, and a common reception area with reception services. Most also offer private office space when your needs require it. It’s a much more professional environment than meeting clients at the local coffee shop.
One drawback is if you prefer working without noise or socializing. Or have a need for enhanced security. Some are concerned the open environment could be dangerous in view of modern workplace violence. However, the office real estate sector is certain to figure out a solution to that concern (as best they can).
It's difficult to say if this will become the dominate office model of the future. However, it will certainly grow and versions of it will migrate from downtown to suburban office buildings. It will also evolve. There are already different models emerging that range from catering to bare bones startups, to well-established accountants and lawyers preferring luxury settings, to hybrid models encompassing both. The biggest advantage is remaining agile and nimble as office needs change.
For many, the main attractions are hosted events that include happy hours, educational workshops, and guest speakers. But much of the value in shared office space comes from mingling, networking, and learning from fellow office workers and other entrepreneurs.
Early developments in shared workspaces indicate it will have a much bigger impact on future office designs than the traditional office evolution. If anything, corporate offices are and will continue learning from the innovative entrepreneurs that dominate this office space. The key to more office productivity appears to be a well-balanced combination of anonymity and social interaction. Of course, having easy access to a mix of accountants, attorneys, business consultants, and entrepreneurs all sharing office space doesn’t hurt either.
What do you think are the longer term implications of shared office space? Both to the office real estate sector and occupants? Please leave your comments.
Author bio: Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 35 years and writing about real estate investing for ten years. He also draws upon 37 plus years of business experience including 12 years as a manager at Boeing Aircraft Company. Brian currently lives at Lake Cushman, Washington. A vacation destination, a few short miles from a national forest. In the Olympic Mountains with the Pacific Ocean a couple of miles in the opposite direction.