Co-working, or shared collaborative workspaces, are not new but it seems the trend has begun to increase exponentially around the world - with some very innovative twists.
Andrew Tu'inukuafe, a member of architectural firm Warren and Mahoney, is a specialist in workplace design. Earlier this year he went on a two-week fact-finding mission in the UK and US. While there he visited two companies who are doing co-sharing in visionary ways.
The first, We Work, in the US started in 2010 and is now the biggest consumer of commercial office space in New York and the leader by far in the burgeoning co-working trend. Today they have offices in 15 cities in the US and 12 countries around the world, with India coming on line soon. An office in Sydney was recently opened. Perhaps Auckland could be soon?
Why are they doing so well, you might wonder?
The company has really capitalised on the trend of 'space as a service'. But much more than that, they say it's because they create communities, not workplaces. The users are members; it's more like belonging to a club than going to the office.
The coffee lounge converts into a beer-and-wine event space during happy hour and the conference rooms are well set up with videoconferencing gear. The smiling office managers, who are on-hand hosts, take care of package deliveries, replenish the free coffee and laser printers, and much more.
An important part of their role is to also help members grow their businesses by connecting people within the community.
And let's not overlook the many other benefits, such as an app for members, an in-house magazine, and the opportunity to attend many events, from serious business-based talks to doughnut days. Innovation, fresh thinking and connection are in the air they breathe.
With such great support you can see why people look forward to going to 'work' and the premises have a waiting list. It sounds like fun. Read more about it here.
Second Home, the London-based co-working company that Andrew also visited, is equally innovative but in a very different way.
They're expanding more slowly than WeWork but even so, they do many of the same things. A point of difference is their architecture and environment - innovative and exciting, visually stimulating and with a huge emphasis on well-being.
It's not just digital nomads and entrepreneurs who join co-working spaces.
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As well as a shared community and networked support they focus on green technology and environmental sustainability. 100% green energy is used throughout the building. They've copied nature in having no straight lines anywhere, including even the funky furniture and fittings. Then add over 1,000 plants and tress watered by a sophisticated hydroponic system and you've got a very different and creative working space. There are all manner of work/life balance activities provided, including yoga classes and meditation. And they also do work!
It's not just digital nomads and entrepreneurs who join co-working spaces. Quite senior marketing and sales staff from large corporates also regularly work there in order to cross-fertilise their thinking, to network, share services and ideas and expand their business to the other members.