This article is part of the Allwork.Space 2023 Future Of Work Forecast. Click here to read about other trends we expect to see in the new year and how they will impact the future of work.
- The coworking industry will continue to enjoy success in 2023 as operators develop business models based on the needs of their membership while improving retention, encouraging sustainability and increasing revenue.
- Coworking spaces will become more creative in their engagement with communities, other businesses, and organizations. 2023 will also see the development of new partnerships with nonprofits — charities, schools, and universities.
- More coworking places will be recognized as destination spots and could find themselves well-positioned within hospitality ecosystems.
As the world is trying to settle into a post-pandemic normal, businesses and workers are still flip-flopping and disagreeing about how, when and where work should happen. Meanwhile, coworking companies and centers are quietly and confidently offering solutions amid chaos — and industry growth shows its working.
A recent report from Coworking Insights indicated that the number of coworking spaces is predicted to reach 41,975 by the end of 2024.
A joint analysis by the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) predicts that the coworking space industry will increase by US$13.35 billion between 2021 and 2025.
In the more saturated markets, competition for coworking membership will certainly increase. Those who co-work should start to expect more than merely competitive rates, meaning coworking spaces must find and define their unique selling point.
In 2023, coworking spaces will continue to exist as productivity havens — where professionals from different industries can collaborate, share ideas and forge new business relationships within one shared space.
2023 will also bring a substantial rise in the establishment of coworking initiatives and investment in existing and potentially lucrative coworking brands by commercial real estate agents. The real estate industry recognizes that coworking spaces have the potential to become game changers in terms of the networking opportunities they can offer professionals from diverse industries.
Successful alliances, however, will depend on how conducive to collaboration these coworking environments are. Coworking spaces that do not operate as inclusive, flexible and member-oriented entities will be unable to support coworkers to play a significant role in the future of work.
Jeannine van der Linden — Manager at deKamer, a network of coworking spaces in the Netherlands, and the Chairperson of the European Coworking Assembly — believes that coworking spaces need to embrace a broader view of their role.
“Most coworking spaces have a huge (mostly unconscious) founder bias effect within our communities,” van der Linden said. “By not doing the work around inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility, we are failing to understand our role in the infrastructure of the future of work.”
“It is our coworkers who are that future,” she added. “We fail them and that future by not broadening our view of what we are doing from rental arbitrage to providing that full infrastructure.”
Last year Allwork.Space predicted that operators of coworking spaces would undergo transformations to address the many needs of their membership. The broader perspective recommended by Jeannine van der Linden is a timely reminder of this prediction.
So, what’s likely in store for coworking in 2023?
1. More eco-conscious spaces, operators and users
Many coworking spaces are already at the forefront of promoting sustainable work practices. In 2023, there will be widespread expectation that coworking spaces will define and promote their green credentials (including accolades, awards and kite marks).
Eco-conscious coworkers will expect that coworking workplace values align closely with sustainability and environmental efficiency. Members will also expect sustainable workspace designs and furniture made from recycled materials. Coworkers will also favor coworking spaces that work only with eco-conscious (preferably local) suppliers of goods and services.
Becoming more environmentally conscious not only sends out a clear message to the public; being seen to be green is also a smart business move. There are many innovative, green initiatives currently within the global coworking industry. The most eco-conscious coworking spaces provide most (if not all) of the following:
- Sustainable amenities and recycled/reclaimed furniture
- Certified organic food and drink on site
- Recycling and composting facilities
- Policies discouraging the use of non-recyclables, paper and unnecessary printing
- Environmentally-friendly energy management (including flooring and roofing) and reusable energy suppliers
- Partnerships with sustainable contractors/sub-contractors
- Indoor plants, a vegetable garden (or rooftop garden), herb planters etc.
- Encouragement of sustainable travel (adequate bike storage, wash facilities etc)
- Opportunities for members to engage with environmental issues and help to raise awareness
In addition to the expectations of the membership, potential funders and investors might also require specific green credentials. These could include requiring coworking operators to make clean air pledges and to demonstrate a robust commitment to improving air ventilation and filtration systems.
2. Coworking spaces will become more community-focused and socially-conscious
Alongside an increase in partnerships with local suppliers, coworking spaces will develop stronger links with their local communities. According to Liz Elam, founder of the largest coworking conference in the world — the Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC) — the coworking spaces that will thrive in the future are those that provide the best opportunities for members to connect (both professionally and socially).
Many coworking spaces are already involved in community activities but 2023 will see much more engagement between coworking and local communities. Some of these initiatives could include:
- Social events such as film nights, yoga classes and live gigs
- Support for local enterprises
- Clinics for local start-ups
- Informal networking events
- Local enterprise and charity launches or events
As more people work from anywhere, there is already increased scrutiny on whether or not digital nomad villages will benefit local communities across the globe. Coworking will become increasingly linked to tourism, and socially-conscious digital nomads will want an experience that does not harm or impede local ecosystems. In this context, coworking spaces that accommodate international workers will start demonstrating a greater willingness and ability to support local infrastructure and communities.
Over the next year, coworking spaces will also develop closer links with non-profit organizations and forge links with charities in an effort to become more socially conscious. Allwork.Space recently highlighted an initiative that assists coworking operators to accommodate vetted non-profits. There are already partnerships between schools, universities and colleges and coworking spaces, but this phenomenon will expand in 2023. Some of the alliances between coworking spaces and colleges will lead to coworking members taking on apprenticeships. Ultimately, this could lead to local job creation.
3. Coworking spaces will be at the forefront of inclusivity
Coworking spaces will become more open to change and adaptable to the needs of their users. As coworking membership becomes increasingly diverse, coworking spaces will cater to a much wider variety of requests and expectations.
Coworking operators will undergo constant reinvention to remain relevant within the sector. This process includes considering inclusivity across the board, such as accommodating physically-challenged members; providing an environment designed to suit neurodivergent members; and generally providing a welcoming atmosphere for people from all backgrounds, faiths, ethnicities and sexual orientations.
In 2023, coworking spaces that assimilate these aspects of inclusivity into their workplace designs will become models of best practice — inspiring organizations outside the coworking industry to up their game.
Coworking operators will invest more in incorporating the latest technology into their workspace design. As the coworking population becomes more diverse (creatives, freelancers, digital nomads, entrepreneurs and so on), coworking operators are aware that it is no longer only tech professionals who expect the availability of cutting-edge technology.
In 2023, coworking spaces will also focus on inclusive branding and an online presence with a broad appeal. Coworking spaces that do not have a strong brand are in danger of becoming irrelevant as the market expands.
4. There will be more coworking spaces for hair and beauty industry professionals
In 2023, more coworking spaces will be designed specifically for freelance hair and beauty professionals. The hair and beauty sector has only recently discovered coworking, yet the association between the two industries has already transformed the working lives of many freelancers.
Hair and beauty coworking enables professional freelancers to work outside of their homes in a professional environment. It enables hairdressers and beauticians to work efficiently without the commitment of having to establish their own salons. Coworking also provides the benefit of sharing equipment, communal spaces, expert advice, a single front desk, booking systems and various networking opportunities.
The Hunter Collective comprises two UK-based hair and beauty coworking sites that embody many of the values already outlined in this list of trends. The Collective prides itself on being inclusive and encouraging collaboration among its freelance members.
5. Coworking spaces will become ‘destinations’ and positioned within hospitality ecosystems
According to a report by ResearchGate, coworking already intersects with the hospitality and tourism industry — and coworking spaces are set to become important stakeholders in local hospitality ecosystems.
The report argues that hotels are increasingly accommodating coworkers in their lobbies, and even restaurants and coffee bars now provide basic coworking facilities during periods of the day when customer footfall is low. Many countries have introduced tourism campaigns to attract digital nomads, and in 2023 this phenomenon will continue to trend.
The concepts of coliving and coworking are becoming synonymous with tourism and travel. The coworking industry should capitalize on the demand for a hybrid approach to work-life-tourism, to secure its place within hospitality.
More coworking spaces will become destinations for digital workers seeking an alternative way of living and working. These spaces will also become integral to the tourism infrastructure of many places across the globe.
A recent Allwork.Space article discusses the impact of customer reviews on the coworking industry. There is potential for a 5-star rating system, similar to that found in the hospitality and tourism sectors. This could increase the onus on coworking operators to actively listen to the needs of their customers and (see trend 3) become more adaptable to change.
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