The concept of co-working and sharing a workspace with other businesses or individuals has rapidly grown in popularity over recent years. This trend, aligned with the huge growth in the contingent workforce of self-employed specialists and part-time consultants, has contributed to the demand for flexible workspace. But of particular interest is the huge growth of such space in the suburbs where, proportionately, we are seeing double the growth in demand than in the key cities.
The traditional worker has evolved; we now find that workers are increasingly reticent to travel far, with many choosing to work at a co-working centre closer to home. Many of these spaces are well designed, collaborative and friendly – an antidote to many of the sterile corporate environments that still dominate the central urban areas.
After staff salaries, the largest cost to most businesses is their office space and we come across many firms looking for flexible alternatives to the conventional commercial real estate model. This concept allows their staff more freedom to work in convenient locations as well as the benefits of being able to scale up and down depending on activity levels.
The type of space you procure for your business, regardless of its size, and your ability to scale it up and down in line with business performance presents a critical business decision. The convenience of this more flexible space is having access to high-spec facilities that are cost–effective and professional, providing a productive space where businesses can hold client meetings and video or conference calls without the excessive and hidden overheads associated with renting a traditional office space.
Start-ups and entrepreneurs are adopting more flexible space as it leaves them free to focus their efforts on getting the business up and running, and having accurate monthly costs that stay in line with the business plan.
Another important benefit of co-working is the opportunities it provides SMEs by being able to work alongside like-minded people in similar industries. Being part of this space provides a solid basis for building a community which allows them to connect and collaborate on a professional level, sharing knowledge and brainstorming.
A recent survey we conducted found that 71 per cent of co-workers find they are more creative in a co-working space and 68 per cent are better able to focus and complete tasks in a timelier manner. With business development being one of the biggest challenges for firms of all sizes, this network of potential contacts proves to be a significant incentive.
There’s no hard and fast rule as to who can use this space and over the years we have seen businesses of various sizes looking for more a more flexible office solution, from tax accountants to party planners. Increasingly, we are seeing large corporates such as Hootsuite, Google and Uber look at these options as it gives them the flexibility that SMEs possess.
Flexible office space provides a solution to the numerous challenges posed by the changing nature of work and the choices of the modern worker. We are seeing a more collaborative approach to space occupancy with firms demanding more of their office and looking beyond the outmoded model of conventional space requirement. In effect, flexible workspace represents a pool of talent that can lead to mutually beneficial relationships for all the occupying businesses, helping them to grow further and maintain an agile and progressive approach to growth.
Tim Rodber is CEO of The Instant Group and a former England rugby captain