Peter Evans, Managing Director of Third Space Solutions, looks at how co-working spaces can be
regarded as the office of the future for modern, progressive workers.
With the predominate office setup still including desks, chairs and traditional stationary it may seem – ostensibly at least – that the standard office hasn’t evolved much over the years. However, the reality is it’s changed dramatically, with technology the obvious embodiment of a ferocious progression over the last quarter of a century. While technology may have developed at a breathless rate with office roles and requirements adapting to embrace these new capabilities, one aspect that’s been slower to change is the attitude around what constitutes the traditional workplace setup. This, though, is now catching up. Current trends are moving towards open-plan and agile meeting spaces, with one of the key drivers being improved productivity – as open plan offices, along with privacy phone booths, meeting pods and breakout areas, offer more flexibility for the worker.
But it’s not just the office environment that’s becoming more flexible. Workers themselves are bucking the traditional view of the 9-5 and the associated, rush hour commute. Thanks to the aforementioned technological developments, business is now conducted on a global scale as people are able to interact with anyone, anywhere in the world. This level of connectivity means freelancers are becoming ever more prevalent while working remotely alongside colleagues and customers as part of a larger organisation is much more straightforward thanks to the myriad tools at our fingertips such as smartphones, laptops, tablets and more. Indeed, I recently read a statistic that estimated within the next five years, 50% of the workforce will either be remote employees, freelancers, consultants, or part-time workers. This certainly suggests that, with these new demands, shared workspaces are the future of work. This is reinforced by the fact that businesses themselves are now recognising the benefits of catering for personal working preferences, which helps to support mental and physical wellbeing, improving motivation and productivity in turn. They are even beginning to factor this into their business models as they recognise that remote working is not only a valid way of working but a beneficial one.
Given the way working practices have changed in recent years, it’s fair to say that the modern worker doesn’t need the office. But that’s not to say they don’t need a space in which to work. Although working from home is on the rise, it certainly presents its challenges. Concentration is often a key factor, with many struggling to put off domestic tasks when surrounded by the trappings and immediacy of the home. Of course, some workers have iron discipline – but others may be inclined to pop the TV on for some ‘background noise’, while it’s sometimes just too tempting to put on another load of washing. It’s not just distractions either. Another challenge of home working is the lack of sociability. Remote workers may not have face-to-face interaction with anyone other than their immediate family, or even anyone at all, for days. Humans are sociable animals, so this level of isolation and loneliness can often be tough to deal with.
Indeed, the Harvard Business Review recently published stats that suggested a fundamental driver of co-working is sociability. According to its report, 87% of co-workers said they met other members of their co-working space for social reasons, with 54% of those socialising with other members after work or at weekends. 83% also said they were less lonely since joining a co-working space, while 89% said they were now ‘happier’ having done so. Those are some remarkably positive stats that serve to demonstrate the attraction of engaging with the concept of co-working. But while co-working itself is undoubtedly a positive on the social front, providers of co-working spaces can’t simply supply a desk and a chair in an office to foster a successful environment. They need to provide a space that satisfies the needs of the modern, progressive worker.
The traditional office often meant you needed to stay at your desk to remain connected, with your phone line plugged into both take calls and use the internet, while also being the power or charging point for computers and laptops. Today though, Wi-Fi, cloud computing, and smartphones have made this redundant. Other aspects, such as integrating wireless changing into workspace solutions means mobile devices can automatically charge at the point of contact. Hopping from a set desk to a pod, breakout area or lounge environment doesn’t mean the unplugging of many cables – simply carry your laptop with you and set it down, with no need to worry about dwindling battery life. This is ideal for the remote worker in a co-working space.
More office design elements can also be included to suit co-workers. Meeting pods, for example, can provide a degree of privacy for those still wanting some semblance of peace and quiet within a wider office environment, while they’re also useful for intimate consultations between clients and visiting colleagues. The flexibility of open plan, agile solutions allows co-working spaces to meet the requirements of transient, short-term need. Areas within the space can be assigned for specific activities, allowing users to mix up their working style, helping to improve productivity. The ‘workplace experience’, much like the ‘customer experience’ is becoming an increasingly attractive draw for today’s workforce. While the terms ‘millennials’ and ‘Generation Z’ may seem like buzzwords, they do define a particular demographic with a particular set of expectations. Utilising functionality and agility allows space providers to cater for a generation with a different outlook.
Agile workspaces are the office of the future. You only need to look at the pace of change elsewhere to appreciate that it’s no mere passing fad. As a co-worker, you should be looking for a co-working space that caters for this growing trend, and if you’re a space provider you should be looking to match the expectations of the modern-day worker.
Photo credits: Third Space Solutions
Peter Evans is Managing Director of Third Space Solutions, a start-up business driven by experienced founders, that’s powered by technology; incorporating integrated technological solutions as part of its lounge and meeting space designs, which includes the latest in wireless charging. Catering for practically any sector, its solutions are ideal for office spaces, retailers, coffee shops and more.