You might be wondering, why does it matter or why should it matter how we define the terms we use everyday within the flexible workspace or workspace-as-a-service industry?
The thing is, some of these terms are sometimes used interchangeably; they have different meanings for different people, and it seems to me that we haven’t been able to set a definition for each.
As a digital nomad, I have been able to work from over 50 coworking spaces, as well as other types of offices, throughout North America and Europe. What have I discovered?
I’ve discovered that when people use the words coworking, shared workspace, remote worker, or even digital nomad, they don’t always mean the same thing.
For example, ‘coworking’ is used for almost any space that provides wifi and has a shared common space. Hotels are doing it. Hostels too. Libraries. Shared workspaces. Coffee shops. Business centers. Traditional offices that put some extra desks up for outsiders. The list goes on and on.
Only recently have some of the larger workspace brands–WeWork, Serendipity Labs, Convene– stopped using coworking to describe their offerings and began using the term ‘workspace’ instead.
Personally, I believe it’s time that the industry at large aligns itself and defines how it wants to be known to the world.
We need an elevator speech that brings together the entire industry and that at the same times clearly informs the general public what we offer, and how the various offerings differ. We need to set a standard within the industry.
But, are definitions really the way to go about this? The answer is yes.
The flexible workspace industry is still relatively new; coworking and shared workspaces can only mature and grow if they know in which direction they are going and if they are able to transmit this to the general public in a concise and clear way.
The definition should answer three key questions: who are we, what do we stand for, and what do we offer (our brand promise, if you will)?
People know about our industry, but most haven’t yet been exposed to it, so they do not understand the subtle, yet key, differences between the different types of workspace offerings. This creates confusion and then leads people to use terms interchangeable–even when they shouldn’t.
So here’s what I will be doing about it: starting with my next article I will begin defining terms that are constantly used in the industry–coworking, shared workspace, digital nomad, remote worker. I do this with the hope of consolidating and clarifying how we communicate as an industry to the rest of the population.
So keep an eye out for that. And if you believe there are others factors that are hindering or slowing the growth of the industry, let us know!