“Business centres aren’t coworking spaces” – so say a few operators and coworkers I have spoken to in recent months. But having tried several different coworking spaces myself over the years, I can’t say I agree.
Some people believe that a coworking space has to look and feel a certain way. It needs a certain vibe, the latest furniture, perhaps some fashionable decor and squashy chairs. Walk into any independent coworking space and it will undoubtedly look and feel quite different to that of a business centre.
But how do you define coworking? How do you define what coworking is not? And where do you draw the line?
A workable solution
The correct answer is anyone’s guess. There is no failsafe definition of coworking – although Nina Pohler came close with her catch-all definition via Deskmag: “Every workspace with flexible structures that is designed for and by people with atypical, new types of work – that is not exclusively for people from one certain company.”
In other words, coworking, like every other form of flexible workspace, was created to serve the needs of a wide demographic of workers who need a flexible, workable solution to fulfil their business needs.
So it stands to reason that business centres, which offer a workspace with flexible structures, would be the perfect candidate to offer a coworking space. So why the belief that they can’t? (And where are they all?)
Victoria Arnold, Founder of Desk Union, told OT what makes a coworking space: “Firstly, anyone can put a few rows of desks into an empty room and call it a ‘coworking space’. In reality, it is so much more,” she said.
“Users buy into a community and that’s a lot more difficult to create than one might imagine. Independent coworking spaces offer a huge appeal to Gen-Y and creatives, whereas business centres are creating shared workspaces for a wide range of specific target audiences.”
Any space – business centre included – has the potential to fulfil this community need. But the difference lies in the operator’s ability to invest real time and effort into helping the coworking community evolve. Business centres are busy places with multiple clients and services – from virtual offices and meeting room hire to serviced offices, receptionist services and managed workspace.
Given this fast-paced environment, it’s a sizeable risk to add coworking into the mix.
Some industry commenters feel that business centres ‘tack on’ coworking spaces in order to jump on the bandwagon, and that this watered-down approach does little to complement the coworking movement or indeed deliver the kind of thriving community that is, today, helping thousands of start-ups, freelancers and mobile professionals to grow their businesses.
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There are other ways for business centres to introduce coworking – and one method in particular, featuring a long-established UK workspace brand, has proven enormously successful. We’ll dig deeper into this subject tomorrow, in part two of our “Business Centres Can’t Do Coworking” focus.
In the meantime, let us know what you think. Coworking is indeed flourishing, and business centres have an ideal opportunity to tap into this trend and deliver a flexible, high quality solution that meets the needs of the world’s business community. Which business centres are doing it ‘right’? Is there a right or a wrong way?