Coworking is the new normal, claims Cecilia Amador in AllWork.space, the flexible workspace newsletter. Amador points to statistics from Cushman & Wakefield, Emergent Research, and others that show the extraordinary growth of coworking: 20% annual growth in major U.S. cities such as New York and Chicago; 40+% growth in other locales; 27 million square feet of coworking office space in the U.S. alone.
Until recently, start-ups and freelancers were the typical coworking clientele. Now larger organizations are getting on the coworking bandwagon. As reported in Entrepreneur, coworking leader WeWork saw a 90% rise in the number of enterprise corporation clients between June 2016 and June 2017. Tech companies like IBM and Microsoft are finding coworking spaces to be a valuable source of innovation and talent that they can partner with. The coworking spaces are essentially incubators where these tech giants can spot potential disruptive technologies and identify potential acquisition targets.
The coworking trend is not confined to the tech industry, however. Entrepreneur lists a broad range of corporations that are now making use of coworking spaces: Verizon, McKinsey & Co., Merck, and American Express are among the major organizations signing on for coworking.
The driving force behind this corporate real estate trend is agility. Agility is not often associated with large businesses and institutions, but coworking spaces allow big companies to scale up quickly with minimal logistics, as a small, agile business would do. New geographic markets can be explored without committing to a 5-year lease. One-off projects can be undertaken without major overhead costs.
Coworking’s agile advantage is supported in part by similarly agile furnishings. Adaptive workstations and modular cabinetry are the underpinnings of flexible coworking spaces. Furnishings like Swiftspace’s benching systems and individual workstations can be rearranged on the fly as occupants’ activities change during the day, then collapsed down and wheeled into storage when not in use. As interior walls come and go, modular cabinetry is reconfigured and re-used – a “green” bonus appreciated by the environmentally-conscious and the cost-conscious alike.
Organizations large and small recognize the benefits agility can bring to their businesses. The “Agile Manifesto,” created in 2001, advocates self-organizing teams, simplicity, sustainability, and continuous attention to improvement. Those values sound a lot like what we see in today’s coworking spaces. Small wonder, then, that big businesses are looking to coworking spaces to improve their agility.
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