New research shows that coworking users value shared flexible space that goes beyond mere desks and Wi-Fi. They want a "fun, friendly, social and collaborative" environment - which is exactly what business centres should be aiming for.
We've seen the steady rise of mobile working which has opened up new markets and opportunities for the flexible space sector. Generation Y appear to be driving this change, armed with the latest technologies, mobile devices and a 'work anywhere' ethos, coupled with the growing trend for companies to cut their commercial property costs.
Since its creation less than a decade ago, the coworking movement has introduced a completely new way of working that brings individuals together in a shared work environment. Business centres have much to gain from this movement and could find new opportunities and revenue by catering to the growing number of mobile workers.
However, it's not quite as easy as opening a shared office and expecting an army of mobile workers to rush in.
Coworking is not just shared office space. It is also about community, collaboration, productivity and inspiration - and this is what separates many shared offices from coworking. For suppliers of shared workspace, the community and collaborative ethos that unites workers and small businesses is often lacking - but according to DeskMag's Global Coworking Survey 2012, it goes much further.
In the latest DeskMag survey, over 2,000 coworking space users were asked to choose words that best describe their coworking experience. The top results were: fun, friendly, creative, inspiring, productive, flexible, social and collaborative.
Most of these adjectives are drawn not from the space itself, but from people - and that's a vital clue in what business centres should strive for when appealing to coworking users. These workers don't just need a place to land, somewhere to connect to a wireless network or to recharge their devices. They are looking for something more - a social hub where they can connect with others, escape the monotony of working from home, and draw inspiration from like-minded business people.
Just take a look at the responses when users were asked why they chose their coworking space:
As a business centre, opening a shared office for mobile workers, freelancers and remote employees is just the first step. To appeal to coworking users and indeed even class yourself as a coworking space, you need to work towards building a community. How do you get people through the door? How do you break the ice to get them communicating? And crucially, how do you build on this to create the all-important community ethos?
Some coworking spaces put a lot of thought into workspace design and layout, introducing subtle methods such as round tables to encourage natural collaboration. Active community hosting is another tried-and-tested method, and the advantage here is that many business centre managers will already be adept at hosting events. Business talks, informal get-togethers, networking sessions, even showing a mid-week sports event on a big screen - it can all help to encourage connectivity, collaboration and foster loyalty. DeskMag's research went on to identify the events that coworking users want to see - top of the list was "networking events" (such as meals), and second was "business workshops".
It's important to remember that coworking is not reserved exclusively for drop-in mobile workers. According to DeskMag's research, 53% of coworking users polled are freelancers,