Coworking: No Longer Synonymous with Open Space

The Instant Group’s latest flexible workspace research brings forth the case of coworking, how it’s boomed in the last several years, and where it appears to be going.

Coworking is typically associated with open and shared workspace and, up until recent years, this is exactly what coworking had been: an open-plan layout space with shared desks available for use. However, the last couple of years have brought about some changes to the concept of coworking.

What we are starting to observe today in coworking spaces is that they are no longer purely open and shared workspaces; they’re turning into hybrid models that incorporate individual offices as well as shared desks in their design.

Deskmag’s latest survey results shows that there has been an increase in demand of dedicated desks and private offices. Deskmag’s data shows that in the US 23% of a coworking space is private offices, while globally speaking the percentage is a bit lower, at 18%. Furthermore, only 13% of coworking centers participating in the survey claim to be fully shared workspace.

The Instant Group’s research draws attention to this and mentions WeWork’s situation as an example. WeWork is now present as a coworking operator in various major cities around the world. Yet, WeWork isn’t purely a coworking space.

“Despite its synonymy with coworking, WeWork’s provision of space varies to include the provision of private desk space, which appeals to growing SMEs and corporate occupiers alike.”

According to Instant, WeWork’s layout design is a response to market needs:

“WeWork has responded quickly to the varied demands of occupiers, many of which fall outside the traditional coworking model of shared space but which retain the desire for flexible, collaborative places to work.”

A claim that can be backed up by Deskmag’s findings and a topic that we’ve covered a couple of times here in OfficingToday.

WeWork is by no means the only operator adapting to market needs and changes. Instant’s report also states that “many spaces that were previously dedicated exclusively to executive suites now offer collaborative, open-plan space with breakout areas that facilitate occupier dialogue and collaboration.” This type of flexible workspaces, also known as hybrid models, currently make up 10% of the flexible workspace industry in the US.

So, is this to say that coworking is moving towards a more private and dedicated space approach? Maybe.
Coworking has been around long enough by now for operators to realize that the fully open-space layout might not be the answer afterall. Like Jerome Chang mentioned recently during a presentation: “the ‘work’ part of coworking should be as attractive as the ‘co’ part.”

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“The focus given to collaboration in flexible workspace is already having one repercussion and that is the growing provision of spaces for concentration. This is already being seen by workspace designers who are viewing the latest corporate briefs, the need to move to a more focused space and work in isolation is now being introduced by flexible workspace operators.”

As for profitability, there isn’t any data reported yet that clarifies which type of space brings more profit. However, we do have Coco Coworking co-founders’ say on the matter. During their ALLGCUC Conference presentation they commented how: “dedicated spaces are the most stable, while flex members are less stable and more cost sensitive.”

Regardless of whether coworking is open-spaced or not, fact remains that it’s a trend that will continue to grow and evolve as it adapts to market demands and needs. Though hybrid models are starting to grow and become more popular, data suggests that these spaces will continue to brand themselves as ‘coworking spaces’.

Image via Industrious, a coworking operator with hybrid design. 

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