"Coworking has moved from a niche market to a fully fledged alternative to the traditional office set up"
So says DTZ in its research report, The Coworking Revolution, released in September 2014. A year later, and we are not seeing any slowdown in the coworking 'revolution'. Just like the wider flexible workspace industry, coworking continues to evolve at pace.
One of the most exciting developments in this "fully fledged" workspace market is the extent to which business centre and serviced office operators have embraced this style of working.
Some operators have introduced collaborative spaces into their centres, housing a small number of people in shared spaces or semi-private 'pods'. Others have dedicated a significant area of their business centre to coworking, like Fife's Liberty Hubspace. And some innovative operators have invested fully in a separate and distinct brand for their coworking spaces - such as Club Workspace - which reflects the sheer significance (and potential) of this sector.
Orega's multi-faceted approach
One BCA Member who has embraced coworking as a flexible workspace concept is Orega.
Following the launch of their new Brussels location earlier this year, Orega has wasted no time in reacting to the needs of local clients and travelling business owners by introducing a 'Flexi Desk' option to its range of workspace.
"We have expanded our Virtual Office packages to include Flexi Desk, a coworking business environment," said Orega's Suzanne Machray. Their shared environment has been introduced at both Sablon Tower and Leopold in the Belgian capital. In addition to shared workspace, Flexi Desk provides phone answering services, mail collection and a registered business address.
Indeed, this approach is a key differentiator for business centre operators.
With virtual office functionality already in place - including mail receipt and reception services - business centre operators like Orega have a natural advantage over independent coworking spaces that may lack an existing service infrastructure.
More pertinently, the serviced office industry has the advantage of a high level of customer service - and it is this focus on client care and professionalism that is increasingly in-demand across the flexible workspace sector, and even in coworking.
What's next for coworking?
James Layfield of Central Working recently proclaimed that "coworking as you know it is dead" - suggesting that the industry has moved on from the "bare bones" of cheap desks and low rents to a more supportive and enriching environment that actively focuses on helping businesses to grow.
The serviced office sector has been doing this for decades, so it's perhaps not surprising that the once distinct worlds of business centres and coworking spaces are fusing.
In Orega's case, the company has embraced a version of coworking that meets client requirements. Yet despite a positive level of demand, their shared office environment is currently playing second fiddle to their main serviced office product.
"Coworking, flexi desks and networking are a trendy topic in the industry at the moment," Suzanne explained. "We are considering Flexi Desk for other UK centres, but it won't be something we offer everywhere. It will be based on demand."
So what is the future of coworking, and will it continue to merge with the serviced sector?
Again, DTZ offers some interesting findings.