In recent years, the co-working sector has experienced rapid growth in many countries around the world, a tendency that so far, shows no sign of slowing down. Initially adopted by small tech firms and start-up companies as a great way to set up an office while keeping costs under control, shared spaces are now offering everything from leisure and fitness facilities, to opportunities to connect with and learn from investors and industry experts. Ansel Liu, co-founder of Nomad, an app and web platform designed to help people find and book their perfect workspace, sheds light on this rapidly expanding sector and what some of the key trends are, both right now and in the future.
Why is co-working proving so popular? Co-working is popular for a number of different reasons, including the flexibility it offers, the lifestyle and opportunity to work alongside like-minded people, as well as the way it’s evolving to include beautifully designed bespoke spaces and experiences. In London alone, there is estimated to be over 1,000 co-working spaces and the capital was recently cited as the leading global market in this sector, so it’s clearly far more than a passing trend. On the whole, co-working is really a symptom of people wanting to fit work around their lives. Priorities have shifted and people now favour access to more connections and opportunities over the status of a corner office.
What do co-working spaces offer that more traditional offices don’t? It’s not only the traditional office but the entire way in which we now work is changing. The old nine-to-five style approach of keeping work and life completely separate is developing into something quite different, representing a real cultural shift. For example, shared spaces make it possible for you to easily catch a yoga class in your lunch break or attend an event after work to learn about something new. But more widely than this: it’s the collective mindset of community, flexibility and new horizons that co-working encourages, that makes these spaces really exciting. When you work in a traditional office you’re mixing with the same people all the time - but co-working is completely different - you will make connections with all sorts of new people, which can help spark fresh ideas, business decisions and even friendships.
Is co-working just for startups? This is a great question, which highlights the need for people to experience co-working. Shared offices have moved from their original function as a cost saving exercise to, in some cases, being similar to luxury members clubs, where people go to mingle and network with colleagues, clients and investors - NeueHouse, Second Home and The Library are just a few examples of this trend. Many shared office environments can also name larger corporate companies as tenants, alongside their roster of startups. Of course, generally speaking, larger companies tend to position satellite teams into co-working spaces (rather than entire departments) with the aim of creating mutually beneficial relationships and connections.
What other trends are you seeing? One really exciting trend I’m seeing is a new wave of travel inspired co-working experiences and retreats or ‘workations’ that are springing up, catering to those companies and individuals who are looking to combine their day-to-day business with a sense of adventure. For example, unique opportunities such as Coboat are now available, offering bespoke co-working trips on board a fully equipped (and of course wifi-ready) catamaran, which regularly sails around the Mediterranean. Furthermore, longer programs, such as Remote Year, can serve as incentives to keep talented employees from jumping ship or starting their own business.
Are there any trends that haven’t made it over to the UK yet? Women only co-working is becoming popular in the US and Australian markets with the launch of spaces like The Wing in New York and One Roof in Melbourne. These shared offices specialise in providing support, networking and guidance for female entrepreneurs. The trend hasn’t made it over to the UK yet but it’s certainly something to look out for in the future.
Is co-working just confined to tech hubs such as Silicon Roundabout? I’m definitely noticing that co-working is becoming popular outside of recognised tech hubs. The increasingly fluid, lean and flexible nature of many start-up companies today, means that workspaces are emerging everywhere that talent lives, or is happy to commute to and socialise in, rather than it being tied to one street or one neighbourhood. So within London, areas such as Paddington, Notting Hill, Hackney and London Bridge are becoming thriving co-working spots and further afield in the UK, cities such as Cambridge and Bristol are also seeing a rise in this type of facility. On a more global level, despite catering to city dwellers in large part, there is also growing co-working demand outside urban environments, in order to provide tranquil places to meet, relax and work from. Mokrin House in Serbia and Coconat in the German countryside are good examples of this.
What about co-living? Is it set to become popular over the next few years? Co-living is definitely taking off in certain metropolitan cities such as London, New York and Berlin. This style of living is perfect for career-minded people, who travel a lot and don’t want to be tied down by an expensive mortgage or long-term contract. In this way, co-living is a great example of the changing needs and demands of millennials, who favour experiences over ownership. It facilitates and offers access to shared resources (which are an upgrade from what this demographic could afford otherwise) and places more value on their time, by taking care of things like admin. One company that’s leading the way here is The Collective, which describes itself as ‘not your average property company’ and sees co-living as the future of both life and work.
How have you innovated as a business in order to keep up with this rapidly growing sector? We’re living in an age where people expect everything on-demand and instant access to workspaces and facilities that suit individual needs is clearly the way forward. Businesses and entrepreneurs no longer expect to wait weeks or go through lengthy admin processes to find their perfect desk space or meeting room. What’s more, the abundance of choice can be overwhelming for some and many offices are catering towards specific sectors and types of company, creating bespoke communities and environments. To help solve these issues, myself and my team have developed Nomad a website and app to make it easy and hassle free for people to find and book their ideal workspace, even in as little time as one minute.
Ansel Liu, co-founder and managing director, Nomad
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