Co-working spaces: how will they impact the future of office design?

Posted by Dieter Wood on 14/06/2016

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Can co-working bring about massive change in modern office design?

Technology has revolutionised the way we work and now it’s shaping office design too. Anyone who works from a PC or laptop, can work anywhere, anytime. Cue the co-working space. A new generation of workspace that is booming worldwide. There’s no longer any need to keep ordering flat whites in the coffee shop because you’ve outstayed your welcome. 

Co-working spaces | Interaction Insight | Workplace trends

What are co-working spaces?

Co-working is where two or more people are working in the same place but not in an office belonging to one organisation. Co-working spaces have lots of facilities: cafés, bookable hot desks, formal and informal meeting spaces, and high speed broadband. Co-workers are also looking for a sense of community.

Many spaces are run as incubators or accelerators where start-ups go for business support and cheap rent. The current co-working craze is also being driven by larger companies seeking out talent, with the main high street banks in on the act. 

Who are the major players?

US company WeWork provides high quality, well-designed spaces worldwide. UK’s Central Working has several spaces in London, and have recently launched in Manchester and Cambridge.  

The South West has plenty of co-working spaces available. The Royal Bank of Scotland , NatWest and KPMG have developed a business accelerator called Entrepreneurial-Spark. Their workplaces called ‘Hatcheries’ provide co-working spaces for start-ups in Bristol and around the country. But co-working spaces aren’t just for the big banks, there are plenty of independent co-working suppliers. Spike Design offers co-working for artists and creative professionals in Bristol and The Guild in Bath is very popular amongst tech start-ups.

What has driven the growth in co-working spaces?

  • The rise of the self-employed and micro businesses. Record numbers, 4.66 million, of UK workers are self-employed. They like freedom and flexibility and co-working spaces give them the option to have an office only when they need one. In the UK in 2014 5.1 million (95%) businesses were micro businesses. An office lease may have been unaffordable and this has fuelled demand for co-working spaces. 
  • Technology is dramatically changing the way we live, work and relate to each other. The introduction of mobile, collaboration tools, and cloud servers, have made agile working possible. This has also meant a huge increase in the number of tech and creative start-ups. 
  • Generational change. The younger generations are driven by the digital age. Millennials tend to want more flexibility and favour a collaborative culture (The Intelligence Group’s Cassandra Report). By 2025 they will make up as much as 75% of the workforce. 

Pros and cons

The downsides of co-working spaces are rarely addressed, they can be lonely for those who aren’t the most outgoing. A typical office allows for building long-term working relationships and friendships with colleagues that the transitory co-working does not. Co-working spaces are predominately a place for collaboration with only occasional quiet focused work. Collaboration is great but many people still need privacy with somewhere quiet to work.

The future of co-working spaces

What will happen when these co-working spaces start to empty out if supply outstrips demand? Or when the start-ups are no longer start-ups and have grown into their own cool, funky offices in two or three years? We asked Mike Jackson, founder of WebStart Bristol, the tech start-up incubator, what he predicts for the future of co-working spaces:

“I think we are seeing the start of a new type of co-working space, not aimed at startups who can only afford the bare basics in cheaper locations but top quality spaces in prime locations aimed at corporates who want the advantages of co-working but on flexible terms….Most major co-working spaces seem to have an incubator/accelerator as an anchor tenant co-working spaces generate new incubators/accelerators and vice-a-versa. I can see no signs of this relationship stopping in the future.”

The co-working trend could bring about massive change in modern office design

Tech and creative companies use much more collaborative space than traditional businesses, dedicating at least 50% of their floor space to collaborative work and socialising. Increasingly, as traditional offices see the benefits of flexible working and co-working space design, we predict major investment in office refurbishment by large organisations. They will be reconfiguring their traditional offices to dramatically increase the amount of collaborative space, in order to attract and retain talent, and to increase staff wellbeing in the workplace.
A great example of how Silicone Valley is influencing white collar working and office interiors comes from Aon’s new headquarters in London. Their new offices, housing 2000, are described as ‘quietly radical’. Instead of dedicated desks, teams sit in zones and use a variety of co-working booths and reconfigurable private meeting rooms – from one person to 12.

We think this sounds like the best of both worlds. Co-working and collaboration combined with concentration and contemplation. Creative office design can facilitate flexible approaches to work, increase productivity and employee wellbeing. We have been creating amazing office designs across the UK that have helped clients encourage and support modern ways of working, boost staff morale and increase retention. So if you are reviewing your office accommodation then please get in touch and we can chat through some exciting ideas.