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Coworking isn't just for startups anymore

Coworking is spreading beyond the startup community to companies, large and small. Here are the four ways they’re utilizing shared space.

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The coworking revolution is transforming real estate as companies seek more flexible ways of working. Pioneered by startups, entrepreneurs and freelancers, coworking is now spreading to companies, large and small, that want to incorporate shared space into their real estate strategy.

Why cowork?

While mobile technology has enabled more people to work from home, companies and their employees are realizing the value in face-to-face collaboration.

Coworking is where flexibility and collaboration intersect. The concept is centered on creating space which supports collaboration, openness, knowledge sharing and innovation—on the user’s terms. In a recent JLL poll, 74% of respondents indicated that thinking, talking, and brainstorming create the most value for an organization. In response, companies are turning to alternative workplace solutions—like coworking—to help drive that value.

4 models of coworking

As coworking has evolved so have the ways its executed. There are four core models of coworking for companies who are beyond startup size but still want to give shared space a shot.

Internal Collaboration

Internal coworking space for employees only.

An internal innovation hub is exclusively for employees within a company’s own office, providing flexible, creative space to suit a variety of work settings. Internal coworking spaces are set up by organizations that want to improve collaboration and knowledge sharing, encourage innovative thinking, and inspire a cultural shift. This model also signals to incoming employees that they are open to more flexible forms of working.

Benefits:

  • Internal collaboration
  • Efficient space utilization
  • Flexibility
  • Ease of implementation
  • Secured environment

Risks:

  • Limited exposure to external collaboration

Coworking membership

External coworking memberships for employees

Companies who want a simple way to increase flexibility can purchase memberships from coworking providers. This allows companies to offer a variety of locations to their employees and accommodate any temporary increases in workforce. External memberships also provide a range of work settings and help companies to tap into new networks and keep a pulse on market developments without making costly modifications or disrupting company culture.

Benefits:

  • Ease of implementation
  • Flexibility
  • Mobility
  • Lower initial outlay cost

Risks:

  • Limited control over use of space
  • Security concerns
  • Proximity to competitors

External coworking space

Collaboration space for employees shared with organizations/individuals in an external coworking environment.

Companies wishing to experiment with collaborative space can work alongside a specialist provider to create a dedicated or ring-fenced external coworking area. This model results in minimal disruption to the existing space and allows companies to test coworking with specific areas of the business before introducing more widespread change. It provides all the benefits of internal and external innovation and is associated with a lower risk of disruption.

Benefits:

  • Innovation
  • Proximity to talent
  • Collaboration
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Flexibility

Risks:

  • Benefits tend to be confined to departments or individuals exposed to this way of working
  • Cultural dichotomy
  • Breach of confidentiality/security

Internal coworking space

Internal space open to external organizations/individuals.

In this model, companies open up their internal coworking space to entrepreneurs and startups, often for free. Startups are usually selected via an application or interview process, but in return are provided with mentoring services. Building relationships in this way can help mature companies secure access to breakthrough technology or ideas at an early stage, while maintaining control over the space.

Benefits:

  • Full control over design and management
  • Flexibility
  • Innovation
  • Collaboration
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Access to talent

Risks:

  • Breach of confidentiality
  • Operational complexity
  • Clash of corporate and entrepreneurial culture

No longer is coworking perceived as a new-age workplace practice, suitable only for startups.

More and more companies, of various sizes and from multiple industries, are exploring the benefits.

According to the latest Global Coworking Survey, 61% of coworking space providers are planning to expand their operations and almost 80% expect the number of members to increase in 2016.

With a growing number of companies becoming curious about shared space, it’s only a matter of time before coworking becomes an integral part of the corporate real estate toolkit.

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