With the success of companies such as Airbnb and Uber, it’s hard to deny that there’s value in the notion of a co-working economy. As consumers, employees and entrepreneurs move towards a culture of networking and collaboration, businesses are starting to feel the benefits too.
A recent study of working practices in Ireland by Regus showed that two-thirds of respondents said that co-working spaces offered a more creative working atmosphere than a traditional office environment. It is no surprise then that a report from Deloitte Real Estate showed the market for serviced offices – including co-working spaces – has grown by more than two-thirds in the past decade alone, giving both growing businesses and established companies the chance to surround themselves with like-minded people in a flexible workspace.
“The co-working phenomenon has, in large, been delivered through innovative, design-led operators who are focused on community, collaboration and brand,” said Chris Lewis, Deloitte Real Estate’s head of tenant representation. “Increasingly, these spaces are becoming their own ecosystem with scaled and scaling businesses working side by side.”
But just why are businesses of all sizes so excited about the concept of co-working? And what kind of real advantages can it give them over the traditionally rented office?
The chance to network and collaborate
Any freelancer or entrepreneur working from home is usually quick to tell you all the things they don’t miss: the sweaty commute, the overbearing manager, and the confines of a grey cubicle. But what’s not so apparent are the things that are often much harder to find at home – the valuable advice and opinions of your colleagues, the camaraderie of a working group, or the all-important distinction between your home and your job.
When you consider that 87% of our survey respondents in Ireland said that co-working spaces offer great networking opportunities, then you quickly realise that those who use this method of working get the best of both worlds. They can keep the flexibility of working when and where they want, but also learn from, and develop networks with, like-minded people who are facing similar challenges.
And if you think taking your work into an open, collaborative environment means you’ll be more distracted, think again. Our study showed that 76% of workers in Ireland thought that flexible working made employees more productive, and 71% said it fostered creative thinking.
Being part of a community
For many people, working from home can be an isolating experience. Conversely, those still stuck in a traditional office setting have to put up with the kinds of internal conflicts that are typical of almost any organisation: competition, politics and unwelcome office policies.
But in an environment where many of your neighbours aren’t necessarily your fellow employees, you’re free to share ideas and perspectives without any of the potential backlash or ladder-climbing you might experience in a corporate setting. And it’s not just about improving your work. Our survey showed that 69% of remote workers have a better work:life balance than employees, while 92% said that they thought it helped parents and carers remain in work.
Taking control of your job
Co-working in a serviced office is all about flexibility. Without the rigid limitations of a traditional office, you’re free to use a workspace only as much as you want to – and that means only paying for as much as you need. If you need a quiet, private space to buckle down, you can find it. When you want to get some advice from the people you share space with, the option is there.
Our study has backed up the need for more flexibility, with 83% saying that the Irish government should be promoting flexible working by offering tax incentives to firms that encourage it. The sense of freedom and choice can empower employees, giving a greater sense of ownership and responsibility towards work. And when you have more control over how they work, you are more likely to spend their days motivated, inspired and stress-free.
Giving your work more meaning
Working in the middle of a group of people from different organisations means you have an automatically distinct sense of identity when it comes to you and your business. There’s no need to put on a certain personality in order to fit into some pre-determined company culture, and that means you can really be yourself.
On top of that, there’s an inherent feeling of making a contribution outside of the scope of your own business. As you share resources, advice and ideas with those working around you, helping others with their own similar struggles and concerns becomes a natural part of your daily routine.
Finally, the way you choose to work places you at the heart of a progressive social movement that values the concepts of collaboration, community, mutual learning and sustainability – which could be a lot more rewarding than just plugging away at home by yourself all week.