It has finally gotten the attention of major media. Is it soon to be more mainstream?

The April 18, 2012 article in the Wall Street Journal, “Warming Up to the Officeless Office” showcases American Express, Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Glaxo-SmithKline as being at the forefront of this shift of their real estate utilization.

The Benefits of bringing down the “Walls”

The explanation can be summed up as the convergence of a desired increase by Corporate America of economy, efficiency and collaboration. What eminated from a focus on saving millions in rent and energy overhead has translated into increased community and accelerated creativity among “members” as the term designated to the transient professionals in the firms. The unanticipated effects include less emailing, more face-to-face interaction in informal, spontaneous meetings resulting in more immediate decision-making and project efficiencies. When you bring down the literal walls, you also remove the symolic walls and barriers to communication and results. Things get done!

Response to trends

Many of us in the Workspace-as-a-Service industry have been observing the trend to more open work environments since at least 2007. The explosion of Coworking worldwide between 2011 and 2012 alone is nearly double, from 1,130 locations in 2011 to 2,150 as of February 2012 thanks to deskmag’s continuous industry research.

Further in the article by Rachel Emma Silverman and Robin Sidel, American Express is siting “studies” regarding average space utilization rate at 50%. We’ve heard statistics in the past 15 months siting anywhere from 60% to 70% average utilization. Contributing factors include offsite work at clients’ locations, teleworking, sick and vacation times. Calculating a loss of anywhere from 30% to 50% of productive real estate is a serious drag on any bottom line.

Accenture has embraced this model for several years. Google and Facebook specifically designed their work environments to be open, although desks are designated for the most ”permanent” or on-premise employees.

What was not acknowledged was that this is a workspace configuration preferred by Millennials, the next-generation of global workers, expecting to work whenever from wherever. So while the corporations mentioned in the article are working with existing conditions, they clearly have their eye on the horizon, which is getting closer with each college graduating class.

Coworking Going Mainstream?

More articles and information come out each month, so perhaps it is becoming less a fascination point and more mainstream. As corporations shift to more Coworking models and as hotels now get in on the act to replace the noisy cafe experience, there is a morphing of The Third Space across multiple formats. Working in isolation is out, working in community is in!

April 25th, 2012

Posted In: Blog, Coworking, HR - Your Team, Real Estate, Uncategorized, Workspace

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By way of sharing what we encounter as we criss-cross North America, this is the first in an occasional series of bits to help the curious with another perspective on how coworking is evolving, changing our workspace culture, our expectations and how our norms are affecting coworking in turn.

Just one perspective.

Background on our perspective: our experience rests in running, managing and advising on shared work environments since 1992 – ancient in today’s view. Those environments include “old-school” Executive Suites/Office Business Centers, high-tech incubators and the current hybrid environments; those that combine elements of coworking and business centers in a single business model.

We will share our own curiosities of particular models, understanding that there is a model for every user and the commonalities of success are, indeed, creating a strong community where these user-members are valued and relationships are the keystone of the experience….and the longevity of the center.

In fact, many of you who have already explored the coworking scene know of environments that relocated and kept the memberships intact. No greater testimonial.

Let’s dig in to recent experiences.

GCUC – Global Coworking UnConference Conference, Austin, TX. March 8-9. Second event of this size, although they’ve had a less formal structure that started in 2009.

What we learned along the way

  • most of the attendees and operators view it as a movement and or a mission
  • many are still grappling with sustainability (read as profitability)
  • there is a message that real estate brokers simply don’t get the concept, so don’t waste your time engaging one for your space search

Our extrapolation of some of the details is that it is a cultural evolution of how we work

For example, the 1960’s working culture moved from “The Company Man” to “Down with The Man”

The 1980’s evolved to “Greed is Good” made famous by Michael Douglas’ character in Wall Street

The Millennium has brought a greater sense of collaboration and community in the workplace – “let’s work together, break down barriers, share knowledge and resources”. Work to Live not Live to Work

While it is a 24/7 opportunity to work, it is also work when and where you want to because you can

Work is being measured on productivity, not face time in an office

HOWEVER – we still need a work community in order to feel connected to a bigger purpose – even if you are a solo-preneur. Coworking addresses the idea of working in community rather than in isolation.

Coworking leaders are still grappling with

  • dealing with difficult members and how to ask them to comply or leave – without being heavy on “rules”
  • generating awareness of Coworking in the general population
  • member retention
  • making money (some operate specifically as not-for-profit, some feel this is a secondary objective, others absolutely established their model as for-profit)
  • specific technologies to track members, CRM, manage space scheduling and billing of members
  • how MUCH structure to create without being so restrictive or constrictive
  • Security in the space – whether to have lockable furniture, hard keys vs. electronic key cards
  • which onsite technologies to deploy as differentiators – 3D printers? (still uncommon)
  • the most effective PR tools and efforts
  • establishing an industry association as well as regional coworking alliances: These alliances are already in place in Toronto and Seattle

Other nuggets

Jean-Yves of DeskMag “Coworking = Physical equivalent of Social Media” – Love it!

We believe this audience may benefit from

  • how to understand the real estate brokers’ point of view so that Coworking operators can leverage those relationships and avoid common pitfalls (The broker doesn’t have to be the enemy…)
  • Clear set of objectives about how the Coworking space is going to run at the outset and have a PLAN
  • Having in place Member guidelines, Social Contracts, a set of Core Values to share with members
  • Engaging local operators of Office Business Centers – locally owned and operated rather than Regus. There is a great deal we can learn from eachother
  • Explore the Global Workspace Association as a resource of information to all types of shared environments

Next Up – feedback from our experiences in Chicago and Evanston, IL.

Cheers and happy exploring!

April 18th, 2012

Posted In: Blog, Coworking, General, International, Office Business Centers, Small Business, Workspace

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I especially appreciated the point that while our workplaces and schools are increasingly breaking down walls so people work in teams, there is definite value in working in solitude. In fact, deep in the article is mentioned the value of focused practice without teammates or colleagues in tow. K. Anders Ericsson, psychologist at Florida State University indicates that this type of solo work is instrumental in “achieving transcendental skill”.

Think of not just athletes and artists, but programmers, analysts, e-traders, researchers – the list can go on.

Solitude and the preference for it by introverts (not the agorophobic but the more reserved of us in the population) encourages deep thought as well.

We all benefit from being working solo, in a quiet environment, ocassionally unplugged, where we can achieve flow – that unique space where we are firing on all engines.

Balance, moderation – just a thought to encourage you not to take down all the walls in the workplace.

(note – you must be a subscriber to TIME to read beyond the exerpt below),9171,2105432,00.html

February 9th, 2012

Posted In: Blog, Uncategorized

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