You hear more and more about co-working offices. Beautiful designer spaces in great locations, hosting an intriguing community of people who work differently from others. Can you move the benefits of co-working into corporate offices? How do you create an office space that will trigger the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in people?
According to estimates by DeskMag, in 2018 about 1.7 million people worked in co-working spaces around the world. This trend is becoming increasingly popular, mainly in the United States and Western Europe, but also in Poland more and more of these offices are springing up.
What is co-working anyway? Its essence can be encapsulated in three words: Collaborate, Connect, Create. The international organisation LExC (League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces) says that a co-working space is a wisely designed space available to all people with a passion and managed so as to create a community of creative entrepreneurs who view success more broadly than just through financial results.
To understand the phenomenon of co-working it is a good idea to take a look at the results of the Global Coworking Survey 2017. Things that attract a growing number of employees to co-working spaces are primarily: the atmosphere, interaction with other people and a sense of community. Add work and space cost-efficiency and flexibility on top of that, and you can easily see why offices of this type have become an interesting alternative to working at home, in a coffee shop, or even the infamous corporate open space.
Until recently, co-working offices were used mainly by freelancers and startups. As co-working spaces evolved, their users changed too. A new trend has been seen in the United States over the past several years – an increasing number of corporations are putting their employees in co-working spaces. And while it is cheaper to rent a co-working space compared to traditional long-term rental, it seems that for giants such as Microsoft, HSBC, Facebook or Starbucks it is more important that co-working offers a great environment for cooperation and innovation. 
Looking at the specifics of work organisation in the sector of modern business services, it would probably be hard to move employees to external co-working offices. You can, however, move the benefits and the spirit of co-working into corporate offices. How to do it?
Let us go back to the results of the Global Coworking Survey. The magnets that attract people to co-working offices are: the atmosphere, interaction with other people and a sense of community. So why not try and move the co-working patterns into corporate offices.
It is hard to move a BSS organisation into a co-working office, but you might want to move the unique atmosphere and spirit of co-working into your organisation.
The atmosphere of co-working spaces is unique. It is created by people who often work on their own account, develop their businesses and are heavily involved in what they do. At the heart of a co-working space there is usually a large social space with a big table, soft sofas and armchairs where people from a variety of businesses meet. This is where you are most likely to feel that unique atmosphere of co-working. This can work in a similar way in the offices of a corporation. The office kitchen is becoming more and more important.
Looking at projects that we carry out with our clients, we see how social areas have evolved over the past few years. They now take up a significant percentage of office space. Their function is changing too - they are no longer used to just heat up a meal, but are actually the heart of the office. A place where employees can meet with each other in an informal setting, exchange ideas and talk about the problems and challenges of their projects. We have noticed that intra-company communication is most efficient when people meet over coffee. Most interactions between employees take place outside spaces intended strictly for meetings. And, as we know, interactions build communication that is essential if you want innovation in your organization to grow.
– says Sebastian Osuch, Regional Cities Director at the Nowy Styl Group
Interactions between employees are essential if you want innovation in your organization to grow.
By definition, co-working spaces are associated with a unique atmosphere of openness. Users of co-working offices are focused on cooperation and mutual benefits from interactions between people. For corporations, such exchange of knowledge and interdisciplinary consultations are also extremely important. You should therefore arrange your space so as to ensure employees have a lot of opportunities for interaction. An office should support its users by offering diverse meeting spaces, both formal and, most importantly, informal. For example, it is useful to have brainstorming rooms where a group of several people can freely generate ideas for innovative solutions together. These are very often furnished with soft poufs or sofas, which bring in a level of freedom to the meeting and support an open mind. Quick consultation zones are also important, located near traffic routes to support ad-hoc interactions between workers from different departments.
The growing share of communication zones in the entire office space is another example of how co-working impacts corporate offices.
Many co-working offices build user communities around their brands, composed of people sharing the same styles of life and work and the same types of activities, and who identify with their values. A similar trend can be observed with some multinational corporations. As employers, they like to build a community of workers who take an active part in the life of the organization and identify strongly with its brand. The office has definitely an important part to play in building this kind of community. It is its natural habitat, so it should reflect its values. Once again, the role of social spaces has to be emphasized here: they help build corporate identity and enhance the sense of community among employees.
Social spaces in corporate offices are where the community of employees is formed.
- an office modelled on co-working offers a variety of different zones, both areas for individual work and spaces for various kinds of meetings.
- employees want to work where they feel comfortable - it does not always have to be a desk. A comfortable sofa or a swing is just as good a place for some tasks.
- especially young workers need to feel their work has a meaning, and they want to be part of a larger whole, participate in the life of the company. Social spaces are, therefore, very important for an office. A large, common dining table or a big couch – these places in the office have the strongest integrating potential. It is often there that the best ideas are born. Kitchen is not only the heart of a home, but also the heart of an office now.
- work goes better in inspiring interiors. You should take care of good lighting, ventilation, plants, natural materials and finishes, as well as interesting accessories – all this will make your office more employee-friendly.