By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist
Starbucks claimed to offer the 3rd space to work after office and home. Co-working is the fourth.
“Coworking is not a workspace industry; it’s a happiness industry.”
Co-working is that a rebranded old concept
Sukhada Chaudhary is an alumnus of MICA, Ahmedabad. She was in Mumbai working remotely for a company in London. That was when she tasted what it meant to work out of a co-working space. She also observed that startups were moving to smaller towns where real estate was not as crazily priced as Mumbai. That was when she thought of the next gig. She came back to her home town and started “Chaos Theory” – a co-working space in Nagpur. For Rs300/- a day anyone can use the space. Beverages, wifi, printers etc are all included in this deal. When Zomato and Swiggy started up in Nagpur, Chaos Theory was the obvious choice until they grew so rapidly that they needed their own office space.
The hotels have business centers. Mona Shukla of CorporateEdge, Gurgaon offers managed offices. These are high end offices which rent out their space to one single client. The clients ask CorporateEdge to design the office in a manner that is consistent with their brand and conveys their values.
Co-working – the fourth space
Co-working is a membership based working space that can be rented for as long as you wish. It will have many different organizations and individuals working side-by-side in the same workspace. Some of them “hotdesk” while others can have a fixed office space and some rent out a cabin to work in the co-working office. Some rent it for a day when they need a space to meet in a new city. Some rent it for a few months. India is a booming market for co-working.
Almost a decade ago Starbucks branded itself as the “third space” after office and home, where work happened. As the nature of work, working and workers have all changed, a fourth space has emerged. Co-working spaces get people from large organizations, small and medium enterprises and the solo workers. The solo worker could be the lone employee of a company or a gig worker who connects to the world on his or her mobile.
This may also be triggered by the millennials who enjoy connecting and sharing their life in the virtual world. The co-working spaces give them a chance to do so in the work setting as well.
Plug and play in office space for employers
New York-based shared workspace company, WeWork started with 20 locations in India in the last twelve months that it has been here. It is currently in Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru but will expand soon to Pune, Chennai, and Hyderabad. SoftBank invested $3 billion into WeWork directly, and an additional $1.4 billion invested into three subsidiaries, WeWork China, WeWork Japan and WeWork Pacific.
Several companies from Microsoft to the college dropout building his startup are customers of co-working spaces. A part of the Jaguar Land Rover’s team works from WeWork in Mumbai and almost 180 people work out of the Smartworks space in Pune. Smartworks Pune also has Amazon India while some of Google’s teams work out of Awfis (another co-working space provider) in Gurgaon.
As organizations expand, they do not need to keep building or leasing office space. The co-working space offers a plug-and-play option. The co-working spaces have hip and trendy designs. It offers a terrific place for people to tap into the diverse skill sets available around.
A new way of working
Why is co-working emerging as the fourth space of work? For the large companies, when they want to expand their geographical footprint, they need to test the waters. The co-working spaces offer a great way to test the market. It is the equivalent of creating a “prototype”. If the market opens up, as it did for Swiggy and Zomato in Nagpur, they can always add more seats until it makes sense to have their own office space.
For the medium sized enterprise, it is a cost-effective way to put money into business, not real estate. They also find the co-working spaces handy for networking and creating an ecosystem of service providers. The startup founders find partners and employees in that space. It is just a new way of working. Ride sharing companies made people ask if it was worth having an asset that was used only a few hours a day. Co-working spaces are making people question if it is worth investing in office space.
Does work have to be done only in an office? Is work-from-home the only alternative? Can the commuting space be a place to work as well? If Uber told us how to hail a ride through an app, Shuttl wants to replace the need for organizations to invest on buses. Started in 2015 by IITians in Delhi-NCR, Shuttl now operates in cities like Delhi-NCR, Bangalore, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, Cochin Jaipur, Srinagar and Varanasi. Their enterprise clients include United Health Group, Fidelity and GMR, to name a few.
With high speed Wi-Fi becoming ubiquitous, the commute to work could become a new place to learn, listen to music or podcasts, rest, and entertain themselves on the way to work. Working in a shared space could then grow from a coffee shop to a co-working space and even a bus.
Not just another place to work
As companies are reducing their investments in office space, it is letting people work from home. Work from home allows people to address their domestic responsibilities like caring for a sick friend or family member.
Gallup’s data shows that 43% of American employees report that they work remotely at least some of the time, up from 39% in 2012. Gallup also reports that the people who work remotely “at least some of the time” are spending even more time working remotely. The number of independent workers (freelancers, independent consultants, etc.) is also increasing, with most of these people working remotely.
There is an emotional price to pay for this flexibility. That is the epidemic of loneliness.
People feel happier
In a survey, people using co-working spaces described the benefits of co-working to be social connections and better networks.
- 89% reported they are happier
- 83% reported they are less lonely
- 78% reported that co-working helps keep them sane
- 82% said co-working has expanded their professional networks
- 80% said they turn to other coworking members for help or guidance
- 64% of the respondents said their co-working networking was a very important (26%) or important source of work (38%)
What if… your employer built a co-working space
So many organizations struggle to build collaboration skills among their leaders. Why not bring a group of twenty somethings representing different functions and ask them to design products or services for a new market. Innovation can happen effortlessly if the place encourages free thinking. Create a funky work environment and invite employees to work from that space occasionally. The digital giants are building big offices for a reason. (read about it). If that is too much to do, just rent some seats in a co-working space. It is the fourth space. It is the future of working.