Just in case you did miss them, here’s a 5 minute wrap-up of flexible workspace highlights in 2016.
1. It was a year of giving
At the heart of every successful flexible workspace is a strong, thriving business community, and in 2016 the industry gave back to the communities around them. We saw the launch of charitable foundation All Good Work, which matches non-profits with donated workspace, and the creation of Mi-Hub, a coworking space dedicated to supporting migrant entrepreneurs. Orega launched its #StartMeUp campaign to drive entrepreneurship, while NextSpace founder Jeremy Neuner summed up the value of our industry in his Tedx talk, “if we want a better society, we need a better way to work”.
2. And another year of consolidation (are you surprised?)
As we have come to expect from our industry, consolidation continued unabated in 2016. From CoCo and Enerspace to Landmark Plc and Garden Studios, not to mention essensys acquiring Hubcreate and GCUC joining forces with Alliance, 2016 was another busy year for mergers and acquisitions. Whether you see consolidation as an opportunity or a threat, such activity is often a sign of a healthy industry – and in that sense, ours is booming.
3. The U.K. was shaken, Europe stirred, and the U.S. shocked us all
2016 was a year of political shake-ups on a global scale. The UK voted for Brexit, which created a knee-jerk reaction and a temporary slump in demand for UK workspace. Since then, demand has reportedly regained ground and many operators see this fresh period of uncertainty as a major opportunity for the sector. In the meantime, cities across Europe are ready to embrace the potential fall-out as Britain departs the EU, and the U.S. is coming to terms with its shock Election result. In this case, workspace operators rallied round to dispel workplace conflicts and keep a positive, collaborative environment.
4. Meanwhile, Latin America took on the world
There’s a workplace revolution going on in Central and South America. Fresh, inspirational spaces are coming to towns and cities across Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, Chile, Colombia… and more. 2017 looks set for more growth as one Latin American coworking operator, Urban Station, plans to multiply its coworking portfolio and transcend its home borders for the first time.
5. WeWork scored a Century… and discovered Serendipity Labs snapping at their heels
With WeWork continuing to expand without pause (although not without its challenges), the workspace company opened the doors to its 100th location in November of this year. But wait… WeWork has a challenger in the form of Serendipity Labs. Founded in 2013 in New York, the workspace operator is harnessing the power of franchising to expand its reach — and currently has over 100 locations in development.
6. 2016 wasn’t all good news
As a service industry, the onus is on workspace operators to reach – and maintain – extraordinary levels of service. At ground level this presents various operational challenges such as mail forwarding hiccups, or the question of how much collaboration is too much – and when does it become a distraction? Not to mention members who ignore shared workspace etiquette. On the plus side, not every workspace disaster is doomed to fail – and Mick Simpson’s CoLabSpace in Melbourne shows us how to learn from our mistakes and turn an otherwise disastrous situation around.
7. But the industry empowered people to fight back
Many gender-specific workplaces empower their members and have become thriving hubs of entrepreneurialism. Sadly not every gender-specific workspace has the right intentions, yet at the opposite end of the spectrum, Feminaria is an outstanding example of the good that comes from providing a safe, supportive environment for entrepreneurs who have previously suffered in discriminatory workplaces. This inspiring story demonstrates the sheer power of flexible workspace as a force to do good.