The Uncalculated Value Of Flexible Workspaces And Other Takeaways From Coworking Europe

Key takeaways from the Coworking Europe 2019 conference in Warsaw, Poland.
  • Allwork.Space attended the Coworking Europe 2019 conference in Warsaw.
  • The three-day event covered a huge variety of topics including future industry growth, the value of coworking, and automation opportunities.
  • Research shows that across Europe, demand for flexible workspace has increased 30% this year alone, with Eastern Europe the highest growth market.

Coworking Europe took off today with an incredible agenda, covering topics from the growth of coworking in Europe, to how coworking operators can create a friendly environment for small and large companies. 

The three-day event in Warsaw, Poland, took off with a welcome message from the conference organizer Jean-Yves Huwart, followed by an introduction to the Polish coworking market by Kasja Wojnar from Brain Embassy, Konrad Szaruga from CBRE, Natalia Kuliberda from Coolbird, and Marta Moksa from O4. 

Coworking in Poland: Quick Facts

  • Though 90% of Polish freelancers are familiar with coworking, only 6% actually use coworking spaces. 
  • Only 25% of coworking operators in Poland are actively pursuing growth; the rest prefer focusing on improving their existing locations. 
  • There are currently around 38,900 workstations in Poland. 
  • Coworking takes up 2.5% of total office stock in Poland. 
  • There are approximately 17,000 workstations currently under construction. 
  • Most coworking spaces can be found in Warsaw and Krakow. 
  • The largest coworking operators in Poland are Regus and WeWork.

The State of Coworking Around the World

Carsten Foertsch from Deskmag magazine took to the stage to share the results of the 2019 Global Coworking Survey. According to the results, 4.8% of coworking memberships are canceled per month in Europe. The most cited reasons for leaving include:

  • The space is too noisy
  • Too expensive
  • There is a lack of interaction.

On the bright side, Foertsch reported that the number of members per coworking location has remained stable and the average occupancy rate sits at 55%. Globally speaking, 43% of coworking space operators report being profitable, with larger operators reporting more profit than smaller ones. According to the survey, opening new coworking space locations increases the profit margins of operators (the Netherlands and the UK report better profitability).

On average, it takes 12 months for operators to break even; in Europe, this number is closer to 15 months. An interesting takeaway is that low prices are not a key selling point for coworking users, with 64% of respondents citing the working atmosphere as the most important factor. However, smaller operators tend to compete on price more often, highlighting the need for them to find creative ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. 

Coworking Growth across Europe

James Rankin from the Instant Group gave an interesting presentation about the coworking market in Europe. According to Instant’s data, demand for flexible workspace has increased 30% this year alone and Eastern Europe is the highest growth market in Europe, experiencing a 150% uplift in demand. 

Rankin talked about the growth of the industry outside of key cities. While big cities are characterized by having larger spaces and higher prices, coworking spaces in smaller cities tend to have a more ‘homely’ feel and generally know their members better. While coworking is expected to continue to grow in key cities, larger operators are starting to move into secondary and tertiary markets, where demand is primarily driven by small teams and individuals. 

Not only is coworking moving beyond large cities, but it is also impacting the larger CRE industry. Coworking is still in its infancy, however landlords and property owners are starting to find ways to be actively involved in the industry as many increasingly struggle to sell and lease traditional space. 

As for the future, though there is still growth in the picture, Rankin argues that there will be some disillusionment, especially following the failed WeWork IPO. 

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The Uncalculated Value of Flexible Workspace 

Thomas Schulz, from AllOfficeCenters, gave a presentation that focused on what clients really need to know when they begin their office space search. 

According to Schulz, 78% of clients have stated that speed is the main reason they have opted for flexible space vs traditional leases. Another reason why large clients find flexible workspace valuable is because it offers double flexibility: agility and scalability. 

When searching for office space, clients are looking beyond costs; they’re interested in finding office space that will be easy to set up, that will have a positive impact on their corporate image, and that will help them win over top talent.

Flexible workspace operators need to start selling these points to potential clients. While costs and price are of interest, operators need to be able to convey the less quantitative value of coworking spaces. Using agile and flexible real estate will not only impact a company’s balance sheet, but its overall performance as well; operators need to take this into consideration.

Coworking + Technology

As demand from enterprise and corporate customers increases, operators need to make sure that they are offering the right technology infrastructure to members. There’s an increasing number of technologies for the built environment making it to the market. From sensors to business intelligence, these technologies are poised to revolutionize the way people use and manage space. 

While automation could happen in the flexible workspace industry; it will face challenges. Although operators can outsource the management of the building and even host it in the cloud; in order for this to work, their coworking community needs to be able to handle and get used to automation.

If people play a key role in the day to day operations and relationships of a space, then automation is less likely to happen and succeed. 

In this panel moderated by Jean-Yves Huwart, Xabier Apellániz from Salto KS, Momchil Andreev from Office RnD, James Shannon from essensys, Christoph Hammer from Ezeep, and Kitty Bons from ZapFloor discussed the role of technology in the industry, addressing issues such as how technology affects the quality of service, workplace experience, and interoperability of a space. 

The panelists agreed that coworking is in the hospitality industry, and because of this, automation and other emerging technologies can be useful to reduce costs and to help personalize the experience; but people will remain a key element of coworking success. 

Different Clients, Different Needs

Agnieszka Lekszycka from WeWork, Franz Palleres from Aticco, Inga Hilgenberg from Unicorn, and Maciej Krol from Business Link participated in the panel “Making coworking a friendly environment for small and large corporations: dealing with space size, companies cultural differences and social match making” moderated by Natalia Kuliberda from Coolbird. 

When modern coworking first took off, it was mostly used by freelancers and entrepreneurs. However, as the industry has grown, member profiles have significantly diversified. Flexible workspaces today are home to freelancers, startups, SMEs, and large corporations. 

The panel addressed some of the differences in creating flexible workspaces that cater to larger tenants vs smaller ones. According to panelists, enterprise members tend to have additional space and resource requirements, including the IT infrastructure, private wifi network, additional security measures, the liberty to brand their space, and different conference room sizes. 

Panelists argued that initially, it takes more time and energy to work with enterprise clients, however, once they are inside your space, it is easier to manage and work with them. Before setting a large member in the space, operators need to take the time to get to know their space needs and demands; including their design preferences, the layout of the space, and how their workspace will overlap/connect with the rest of it and with other outside members. 

Stay tuned for more takeaways from this year’s Coworking Europe conference.

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