The Evolution of Coworking in Asia

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Although co-working is a relatively new trend it’s already evolving. As larger corporations get in on the game, co-working is adapting and changing to suit different needs.

In the beginning co-working spaces were about young, entrepreneurial companies needing space. They were about accommodating really lean businesses while also creating a sense of community. A few people with a great idea but no funds to set up big infrastructure could use a co-working space to get that idea off the ground.

As Angela Ferguson, MD of workplace design firm Futurespace, puts it: “Co-working was about getting people to network and share ideas, creating a community around work and what that meant. What we’ve seen now is that they’ve become so much more than that, the concept has evolved very rapidly.”

Ferguson identifies three main evolutions of co-working:

  1. Co-working space provided for existing tenants

Regular tenants in an office building often need extra space on a temporary basis. They may need to hold a large meeting or collaborate in a different way, or do private work. To support this need, many buildings are providing spaces for this, giving tenants access to the extra facility. It also enables tenants to network beyond the people in their own business.

An example of this is The Porter at 1 O’Connell St, Sydney. Described as “Sydney’s premium executive business lounge…  a space somewhere between a private members lounge and a five star business centre, complete with concierge”, the venue can be configured to accommodate small meetings and lunches to conferences, events and presentations.

  1. Incubating young start-ups

Many professional services such as banks and consulting firms are providing and managing co-working spaces for start-ups they’ve taken under their wing. Banks are traditionally large, slow-moving institutions, but they’ve come under pressure to perform and be more agile, and innovative. So they’re using co-working to create more partnerships and creates new products, “almost like a mini hackathon” as Ferguson phrases it.

One example is NAB (National Australia Bank) which has set up The Village co-working space in Melbourne’s Bourke St offering free membership to business clients and the start-ups that work with them. It’s designed to be a “collaborative co-working environment” where the bank can also work with their clients and help develop these companies. The Village hosts regular events, with speakers from successful start-ups and digital leaders such as Twitter.

  1. “Serious” businesses using co-working

As mentioned, co-working was originally for start-ups. But many more traditional and serious businesses are also co-working, such as consulting firms. They don’t have the overheads of a long lease and as most of their staff are consultants who are very mobile, there’s no waste of space.

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WorkClub is an example of this, describing itself as “an enlightened alternative to co-working, serviced offices and business clubs” it claims to be redefining the workspace, “blurring the lines between work, home, hospitality and retail”. It targets “high calibre” professionals and facilitates formal and informal collaboration.

Co-working has grown and evolved to the extent that it’s frequently called “the future of work”. With 40% of the workforce expected to be freelancers and independent contractors by 2020, co-working will increasingly dominate and define how we work in future.