Every industry has roots in alternative sectors. It's a natural course of trade and commerce that one sector gives way to another, leading to sub-sectors and niche markets. Sometimes, entirely new industries are born.
When you consider the question of how serviced offices began, part of its early history can be traced to the law industry. Specifically, to barristers' chambers.
Centuries ago, barrister's chambers were rooms or buildings clustered together where practicing barristers worked, trained, and even lodged. The concept of these chambers has prevailed; although in its modern sense, they are shared workplaces occupied by independent barristers, who share premises in order to cut costs.
Despite the relatively new term of 'coworking', which is considered a young market, the concept itself has been operational for decades, even centuries. The current question many workspace operators are considering is: should coworking and flexible workspaces be more specialised in their approach?
This particular topic has come around based on the notion that some shared workspaces, even some business centres, are too general - and should instead cater to specific markets or industries. Of course, in any shared environment, some business owners will always require more privacy than others. Some will require an environment with specific facilities and curb appeal, while others are content simply with a desk and like-minded companionship.
Perhaps the more pertinent question is: is there an opportunity for flexible workspace operators to target specific markets?
You only have to look at Harley Street in London, a collective hub of medical professionals; or Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter; or the concentration of creative firms in Salford's MediaCity (pictured), to understand that there are advantages in providing industry-specific workplaces in relevant locations.
For instance, could workspace operators provide specific workplaces by the floor? Or use partitioning to create separate industry 'zones'?
Of course, the wide-reaching appeal of flexible workspace is one of its greatest assets, so this targeted approach will by no means work across the board. And nor it should.
Rather, it is an opportunity for those with the appropriate space, location, and provision of services to look beyond the parameters within which we work, and explore alternative service structures to benefit their client base.
It is evident that, rather than reinventing the wheel, we can look back and learn a great deal from the past. Whereas coworking spaces have long been prized for their community-focused approach and cross-fertilisation values, history does repeat itself - and, given the right circumstances, there is perhaps room in our industry for a more targeted and specific approach.