The future is all about coworking. So says the Global Coworking Survey 2017, according to which, by the end of the year, more than one million people worldwide will rent a workstation in a coworking space - approximately double compared to 2015, when this figure reached 510,000.
“This data reflects the increasing tendency of workers to set up their own businesses and choose coworking solutions so as to have more services and more interpersonal relations,” explains Paul Campagnano, founder of Impact Hub Trentino, part of the international Impact Hub network boasting more than 90 spaces in five continents. “However, it is also true that more and more companies must ensure a higher quality of work for their employees, taking into account their need to reconcile professional and family life, also via teleworking solutions. In this regard, coworking is an excellent solution.”
The workstations are mostly occupied by small businesses (47%), followed by freelancers (20%) and employees of large companies who work from remote locations (12%).
While coworkers are on the up, so are the places that offer workstations for rent. Just two years ago, there were 8,700 coworking spaces worldwide. This year, that figure has increased to an estimated 13,800 spaces. According to the report, the number of people per coworking space has also grown from 49 in 2015 to 74 today. This trend is reflected in the growth objectives of the managers of coworking spaces: 27% intend to expand their space with new workstations, while 39% are considering opening a new location.
What we offer is more than just walls and desks; what’s really interesting is that we are a veritable hub of talent and skill
Attracting new members continues to be the main aim of the managers of these spaces. Indeed, many have already expanded their offices, and now need new users to fill them. As supply continues to increase, turnover and competition remain high, and retaining customers is becoming increasingly difficult. According to the Global Coworking Survey, only 54% of members plan on remaining in a specific coworking space - a figure in sharp decline compared to the previous year, when as many 65% of members were bent on remaining loyal to their chosen space.
“To succeed over the competition, it’s not enough to offer clean and efficient spaces; we need to focus primarily on services and on the community. Some spaces cater to their members’ need to reconcile professional and family life, offering nurseries and babysitting services, and running errands such as going to the post office or picking up the laundry,” continues Mr Campagnano. For him, however, the essence of competition revolves around the relational dimension. “We need to work on several levels. Those who turn to coworking spaces need more than just hardware services; they also seek satisfactory interpersonal relations. The real added value for members is the community and the opportunities it provides.”
All this is confirmed by the Global Workspace Association, according to which people choose this kind of work solution primarily for the networking opportunities they provide, followed by a sense of community, the ability to stimulate creativity, innovation and collaboration, and finally, the chance to save - because, of course, collaboration slashes costs.
Coworkers have high hopes for the new year: 61% of members expect an increase in their income and work, while 73% are certain that they will increase their network of contacts. There is a clear difference in the expectations of employees and those of entrepreneurs or freelancers going forward. The former are more confident about the future, while the latter only expect to increase their free time. According to Mr Campagnano, it is precisely in these different expectations that the biggest coworking opportunities lie.
“What we offer is more than just walls and desks; what’s really interesting is that we are a veritable hub of talent and skill, mostly represented by freelancers and small businesses that have just entered the market and are still struggling to make it,” he explains. “In the future, coworking spaces will generate more and more commercial opportunities for their members. This is because they are well integrated in the local territory, and have an extensive network of contacts. We will serve increasingly as a point of contact between coworkers and external enterprises. This is the biggest innovation we are facing.”
The coworking space, therefore, is destined to become a commodity. Once again, what matters most in a sharing economy - in which the intangible gains in importance - are interpersonal relationships. “The key to success lies in our network of contacts, and in the ability to bridge the gap between the local economy and start-ups in need of new customers so as to be able to take off. We must learn to look beyond our own needs, helping our members to grow rather than just concerning ourselves with filling our spaces.”