Demand for flexibility drives expansion in co-working

The number of co-working spaces is rapidly increasing, fundamentally changing the way we use office space. Cost and flexibility are important drivers. So is access to a community. To continue to attract, co-working spaces need to offer solutions that are both optimised for the modern worker and flexible.


For as long as offices have existed, there has been discussion about the ideal structure. One thing is certain, however, and that is that future corporate workspaces will look and operate in fundamentally different ways from how they have in the past. Our world today is mashed up and multifaceted, with borders and barriers becoming blurred at all levels. Internet of things, connectivity and big data are cutting us loose from geography making it possible to move freely. Technology has dramatically changed where, when and how people work – a trend that was reinforced during the covid-19 pandemic.

Fast-growing workplace movement

As one of the fastest-growing workplace movements of the last decade, co-working enables people from diverse backgrounds to work together in a common space. The rapid expansion of co-working has transcended its origins as an alternative to traditional office space, originally favoured by technology, start-up and freelancing communities.

Today, a broad range of businesses — ranging from technology and professional service firms to consumer product companies — form a growing ecosystem that recognises the value of flexibility, community and shared resources. Businesses of all sizes and types — ranging from small start-ups to global enterprises — choose to locate employees or teams in shared work environments, either temporarily or on an ongoing basis.

Built-in flexibility

Organisations have adopted co-working in a variety of ways, adapting the style to suit their particular needs. In some cases, companies are encouraging their remote or work-from home employees to join co-working spaces to reap the benefits reported by independent co-workers. These benefits include enhanced collaboration, productivity and job satisfaction. Other companies have launched satellite offices or incubators at existing co-working spaces, enabling employees to collaborate with outside partners, researchers and customers on a consistent basis. Such shared office environments allow companies the flexibility to devote dedicated space to facilitate these activities on an as-needed basis, without the stringent terms of a typical 10-year commercial lease.

Co-working also enables organisations to provide the additional amenities and built-in flexibility which are increasingly essential to attracting and retaining talent in today’s competitive marketplace.


Must understand the need of the modern worker

Demand is on the rise again as many professionals itch to get back to the office — just not the office they went to before the start of this pandemic. To provide value to professionals who have the flexibility to work from wherever they please, offices must have what most homes lack: quiet, privacy and amenities that support focused work. For many, the shoulder-to-shoulder environment of old co-working spaces, which undeniably offered social energy but also a lot of noise, won’t cut it anymore.That is also why many co-working spaces are currently evolving from chatty social hubs to productivity destinations, offering flexible solutions with a mix of private office and collaboration areas, using sound-masking technology to keep noise levels down.

Co-working spaces are likely here to stay, but the ones that will stand the test of time will be those that understand the needs of the modern worker. That is, an office where professionals have all their digital, privacy and logistical needs taken care of, so they can actually focus on their work, while also providing them with opportunities to interact with others.

Co-working history

The global co-working movement can trace its origins to the emergence of ‘hackerspaces’ in the mid-1990s. These open workplaces provided physical spaces where people with common digital technology interests could gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment and knowledge. Brian DeKoven, a game designer, coined the term ‘co-working’ in 1999, identifying a working style to facilitate collaboration and meetings. A few years later, a broader concept of co-working emerged with the 2005 launch of the first official collaborative workspace: the San Francisco Coworking Space.