The seemingly unstoppable growth of coworking in Australia has businesses and governments wondering what it all means to them. How much disruption will it bring to traditional real estate models and workplace, and where might the opportunity be?
The media has paired the coworking growth phenomenon with the future of work and economic power because of its association with innovation, fast companies and the increasingly influential Millennials. A confused interpretation is it will be the next wave after the now prevalent activity based working (ABW).
When people want my thoughts on coworking I like to ask them what they mean. Often they are unclear so just site an example. There is a problem here of definition and it is distorting our understanding of its lessons and implications.
The least useful idea of co-working is one based on interior design – open space, long tables and a few of-the-moment design features. Although this approach meets some demand it is mostly likely of the moment – a trend.
At its best, coworking is where a culture of connectedness among otherwise isolated or independent people is actively fostered. So, a sole practitioner feels part of something bigger – socially, intellectually and professionally. A team within a large enterprise can temporarily extract themselves from their corporate culture to pursue independent thought and establish outside-enterprise contacts. An emerging business can bolt its fledgling culture to the scale and energy of a coworking environment
It is no simple feat to facilitate a good coworking culture. It necessitates everything that is done – every frontline staff hiring decision, every interaction with clients, its location and physical design – supports the development of community whilst providing room for participants to work as independently as they wish.
The benefits of coworking; connectedness, engagement, variety and mobility, shall eventually work their way deep into the heart of enterprise. Increasingly, large employers will implement coworking culture to their premises to foster more meaningful culture, innovation, cross silo communication, and multi-generational engagement. Coworking-style community managers will in time be a staple across large employers’ floors, not just their client floors.
Those few instances of coworking having been delivered successfully are a valuable insight into the future of work.