What’s Next For Coworking? 11 Experts Share Their Views

Whats Next For Coworking
The overall consensus is that if you’re not growing, you’re missing an opportunity.
  • As we enter a new decade, Allwork.Space asked 11 industry leaders and experts to share their thoughts on the future of coworking.
  • Respondents include Ryan Simonetti from Convene, Liz Elam from GCUC, Brad Krauskopf from Hub Australia, and John Arenas from Serendipity Labs.
  • The overall consensus is that it’s essential to add value to members and clients, and if you’re not growing, you’re missing an opportunity.

The end of a decade is just around the corner; a decade that saw the exponential growth of the flexible workspace industry. With 2020 just a couple of weeks away, Allwork.Space reached out to industry experts and leaders to ask them what’s in store for the flexible workspace sector. 

From an increase in landlord-operator partnerships and larger space requirements from corporate members, to the great comeback of community and coworking outside of city centers, there’s plenty in store for the industry and ample opportunity for growth for flexible workspace operators around the world.

Allwork.Space asked the following question to 11 industry leaders and experts: In your opinion, what’s next for the coworking/flexible workspace industry?

Here’s what we heard back (answers have been edited for clarity). 

1. Ryan Simonetti, CEO and Co-founder of Convene

The flexible workspace industry is bigger than one single player, and the structural shift towards real estate outsourcing is here to stay and it will only accelerate in the years to come.

Partnerships are going to play a major role in the future of this industry as companies continue to outsource more of their space, as well as their hospitality amenities to flexible workspace operators.

Building owners can either choose to go at it on their own, or partner with an operator to bring flexibility and hospitality into their portfolios.

2. Jamie Russo, CEO of Everything Coworking and Executive Director of GWA

2019 was an exciting year for the flexible workspace industry, however I hope that 2020 will see a little less headline drama and continued support for the brands that are expanding on the right business fundamentals – profitability and serving their core customers in a unique way. 

I’m excited to see how the brands from the institutional asset owners (Hines) and brokerages (Hana) hit their stride next year. I think we’ll see a deeper focus on brands catering to enterprise users but also on the other side, the continued nichification of the industry to serve the long-tail users in a meaningful way.

3. Liz Elam, Founder and Producer of GCUC Global 

As corporations send their employees into coworking spaces in unprecedented numbers, we will see explosive growth in our industry. If you’re not growing, you’re missing an opportunity… 

4. Brad Krauskopf, CEO and Founder of Hub Australia

Coworking operators and landlords will need to move from a ‘metres squared’ to ‘members squared’ view. The strategy of putting all your focus into creating the biggest coworking spaces is over.

Coworking spaces that offer the most value to businesses and their staff will be the successful ones in the long-term.

5. Hanane El Jamali and Anthony Gutman, Co-founders of REMIX Community

We believe there are two ways of understanding coworking and its future. The first is the great comeback of community. While the industry has shifted to “Space-as-a-Service” to cater to the needs of larger, corporate clients, we strongly believe that “community coworking” will make a powerful return. Work is still very much human, and people still crave meaningful connections at work and outside of it. 

The second is increased competition from traditional real estate players. Real estate landlords and developers have already begun to modify their spaces and properties to cater to the needs of today’s tenants; from increased flexibility to better design and amenities. As a result, the industry will see an increased influx of traditional CRE players modernizing their offering and actively participating in the industry. 

6. Nicole Vasquez, Co-founder and Chief Community Officer at Deskpass

There continues to be a need for coworking options close to where people live: outside of the downtown area in major cities, and in the suburbs. Companies like Office Evolution and 25N Coworking are capitalizing on these opportunities already, and independent spaces are continuing to open by individuals wanting to build community in their neighborhood.

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    I believe we’ll continue to see a steady rise of coworking awareness in smaller cities as flexible workspace operators rapidly expand and bring affordable solutions to these markets. 

    7. Jonathan Weinnbren, Managing Director of BE.Spoke 

    2020 will bring expansion and contraction; investment and divestment. There will be an increase in partnership, joint-ventures, and franchise opportunities within the industry. Operators will increasingly focus on hospitality, and disruption will continue to be a driving force of the industry. 

    Ultimately though (and finally!) all roads will lead to more customer centric solutions across commercial real estate. 

    8. Niki Fuchs, Managing Director of Office Space in Town

    I think we’re going to see a significant drive for quality across the entire flexible office industry as the client base evolves. Flexible spaces are beginning to see an intensified increase in demand from larger companies and more blue-chip firms. Against this backdrop, the seemingly trendy but simplistic offering of free beer and pizza will not be enough – office spaces will need to be HQ standard with the services to match. 

    Operators will need to invest heavily in design, fit-out and services to ensure that their offices offer clients the state-of-the-art facilities and independence that many are demanding. Spaces that can find a balance between creating a ‘community’ while offering the privacy and security that these firms require will be the ones that thrive.

    Another key aspect shaping the sector will be the wellness agenda. As businesses continue to wake up to the importance of workplace health, both mental and physical, we will begin to see this mirrored in the transformation of flexible space. Rather than a “perk”, design for health will become a hygiene factor. And this goes beyond simply providing a variety of spaces, it will be the softer, more human touches  that will be increasingly important. This means providing more than just bricks and mortar, and helping to create a community for clients with regular wellbeing initiatives and social events.

    9. John Arenas, Chairman and CEO of Serendipity Labs

    I think there are three main trends that the flexible workspace industry should watch out for in 2020. 

    The first is the acceleration of corporate demand  for flexibility, as well as more demand from the independent workforce. The second is that branded, national and international networks of flexible workspaces will outperform the competition. Last but not least, major real estate service firms will enter the flexible office market as advisors to occupiers and asset owners, abandoning plans to operate coworking brands themselves.

    10. Wan Sing, Founder and CEO of JustCo

    Within the next few years, we foresee that coworking will continue to disrupt norms of the commercial real estate industry and break down the walls of traditional offices. There will be a shift in the relationship between landlords and operators, leading to more partnerships, management agreements, and joint ventures. More importantly, the industry will continue to grow; coworking in Asia only takes up about 5% of the entire office stock. This number is likely to reach double digits in the next decade. 

    I believe we’ll see the increased adoption of flexible space from Fortune 500 companies, which will lead to larger space requirements throughout the world. Another key trend is that operators will need to focus on offering access to innovative solutions and technologies to enhance the overall workplace experience. 

    11. Jeff Reinstein, CEO of Premier Workspaces 

    Flexible workspace operators will start focusing on profitability and return on investment instead of growth. There will be a lot of consolidation as more coworking companies fail and investors aren’t willing to continue to fund losses. 

    Profitability will be driven, in part, by the continued acceptance of flexible offices by large companies in their efforts to attract and retain talent, reduce overhead, and remain flexible.

    More importantly, however, is that the future of flexible workspace is the future of commercial real estate as we transition to an “office as a service” and “on demand offices” mindset.

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