Why co-work­ing makes bet­ter sense for big busi­nesses

Ke­van Hal­li­well

Gulf Business - - CONTENTS -

MUCH OF the buzz around co-work­ing might be rel­a­tively re­cent but the con­cept is ac­tu­ally not that new.

De­pend­ing on your def­i­ni­tion, the first ex­am­ples of co-work­ing com­mu­ni­ties started around 15 years ago in Europe and the US, and their global pop­u­lar­ity has surged ever since. Ini­tially, they were mainly de­signed as a so­lu­tion for free­lancers who found the lack of sup­port and iso­la­tion a strain, and while they’re still an at­trac­tive choice amongst solo­preneurs and start-ups, the mar­ket has moved on.

One of the big­gest trends we’re wit­ness­ing right now is the grow­ing num­ber of large cor­po­ra­tions and multi­na­tion­als reap­ing the ben­e­fits of col­lab­o­ra­tive work­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2018 sur­vey from Deskmag, 1.7 mil­lion peo­ple will oc­cupy 19,000 co-work­ing spa­ces by the end of the year and buy-in from big busi­nesses is a ma­jor fac­tor shap­ing the land­scape. Large-scale tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies were some of the first to take no­tice, recog­nis­ing that in­dus­try-spe­cific hubs are one of the best sources of con­tem­po­rary tal­ent. Uber, In­sta­gram, Spo­tify and Hoot­suite all started life in a shared workspace and, rather than risk out­side com­pe­ti­tion from a new gen­er­a­tion of in­no­va­tors, tech gi­ants are get­ting in­volved in the ideas as they hap­pen.

By be­ing part of the co-work­ing move­ment them­selves, they have eas­ier ac­cess to mem­bers for re­cruit­ment, col­lab­o­ra­tion and po­ten­tial ac­qui­si­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties. Big names, in­clud­ing Ver­i­zon, Bar­clays, IBM, Mi­crosoft, Dell and HSBC, are all em­brac­ing the trend, oc­cu­py­ing shared space in one way or an­other. Bar­clays has also launched its own New York lo­ca­tion called Rise, in part­ner­ship with TechS­tars, and IBM has in­tro­duced branded cog­ni­tive skills cour­ses at Gal­va­nize.

Get­ting closer to emerg­ing tal­ent is not the only rea­son co-work­ing is im­por­tant. The GCUC + Emer­gent Re­search 2018 Global Co-work­ing Fore­cast found 84 per cent of co-work­ers to be more en­gaged and mo­ti­vated, with 89 per cent feel­ing hap­pier. In con­trast, the tra­di­tional-nine to-five of­fice en­vi­ron­ment has looked lack­lus­tre for some time, and mil­len­ni­als crave the kind of flex­i­bil­ity and free­dom shared workspaces rep­re­sent. Plus, many new fa­cil­i­ties are high de­sign with a fo­cus on things like Feng Shui and work-life bal­ance, mak­ing them more ap­peal­ing and prompt­ing larger com­pa­nies to pro­vide ac­cess as an at­trac­tive perk.

Se­nior man­age­ment sees that hav­ing hap­pier em­ploy­ees is a boon for pro­duc­tiv­ity and en­gage­ment be­tween de­part­ments, plus it re­duces stress and re­sults in fewer sick days.

As well as pro­mot­ing em­ployee sat­is­fac­tion, there is real eco­nomic value to be had for busi­nesses util­is­ing co-work­ing spa­ces, es­pe­cially for staff who spend time on the road or con­sul­tants on pro­ject-based con­tracts. Pay­ing for empty desks ben­e­fits no one, and the wider bur­den of real es­tate costs is an­other rea­son for the shift in at­ti­tude to­wards co-work­ing as a lean en­ter­prise tool.

Tech­nol­ogy is avail­able to mon­i­tor when staff are phys­i­cally sat at their desks and as­sess the ef­fi­ciency of space. As an ex­am­ple, or­gan­i­sa­tions can house 200 em­ploy­ees in a space for 150 be­cause they work there at dif­fer­ent times. Like­wise, if a com­pany is ex­pand­ing into new mar­kets it gives them the op­por­tu­nity to test the wa­ter and scale up and scale down as ap­pro­pri­ate, in­stead of com­mit­ting to a long-term rental con­tract for a cer­tain sqft.

Over­all, it means much less risk, as well as a sim­pler set up. Be­cause co-work­ing fa­cil­i­ties are al­ready well-es­tab­lished with ef­fi­cient tech­nol­ogy and in­fra­struc­ture, usu­ally in prime lo­ca­tions, there’s no time spent search­ing for the per­fect site and per­son­nel can lit­er­ally sit down at their desk and get started on gen­er­at­ing busi­ness straight away.

Tak­ing it one step fur­ther, if oc­cu­py­ing a shared workspace is an ef­fi­cient al­ter­na­tive to per­ma­nent of­fice rental, some com­pa­nies are start­ing to won­der if it might be the fu­ture of fa­cil­i­ties man­age­ment. This is the di­rec­tion We­Work has taken af­ter fo­cus­ing much of its ef­forts on large en­ter­prise clients. In 2017, We­Work launched its own de­sign, build and man­age­ment ser­vices ‘Pow­ered by We’ – a space-as-a-ser­vice con­cept where big com­pa­nies pay them to man­age ex­ist­ing of­fice port­fo­lios, in a bid to re­duce costs and en­hance the work­ing en­vi­ron­ment. This ap­proach re­moves the need for fit-out con­sul­tants and com­pa­nies don’t need to buy ex­pen­sive fur­ni­ture or hire in-house clean­ers and IT spe­cial­ists, re­mov­ing the cost for ad­di­tional visas in some­where like the UAE.

In the UAE and wider Gulf re­gion, we be­lieve there is a con­sid­er­able op­por­tu­nity to de­velop the co-work­ing sphere in a way that con­tin­ues to sup­port the en­trepreneurial ecosys­tem, while al­le­vi­at­ing some of the pres­sure from larger com­pa­nies, and at­tract­ing in­ter­na­tional en­ti­ties to do busi­ness in a more ef­fi­cient and eco­nom­i­cal way.

Ke­van Hal­li­well CEO of Our Space

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