In this guest blog, Miwah Van, Managing Director of consulting firm Unvorsum discusses the relationship between workspace design and technology in enabling organisational collaboration.
Advancements in technology are enabling us to work and live in a way that has never been possible before. A person is now able to turn their car into a taxi service with the likes of Uber, provide their professional skills to anyone, anywhere, at anytime on Freelancer, and if you ever fancied opening your own hotel - you now can with AirBnB. Technology is providing individuals with an ever expanding range of options in how they work and earn a living - never before has there been so much ability for an individual to have a global presence nor the option to leverage underutilised personal resources to generate additional income. Employees' increased optionality is having a direct impact on traditional employer’s ability to attract and retain the best people.
One method corporates are seeking to level the playing field is through offering employees enhanced levels of flexibility and autonomy. Providing a workplace that meets the individual demands of each employee is a key aspect of this equation.
Where can we observe how to balance individual needs with an overall culture?
Co-work as an industry has exploded worldwide over the last 5 years, demonstrating the growing demand from consumers wanting more from their place of work than the traditional office setting. Flexible working environments and leasing structures, aesthetically pleasing design, and the opportunity to interact with other like-minded individuals are all foundations of the product offering. Gone are the days where all employees needed was a desk and a cubicle they could call their own.
However, sharing of office spaces amongst companies and individuals is not a new thing. Barristers have been doing this for years, working with each other in Chambers and gaining the benefit of shared administration costs. Organisations such as Servcorp and Regus successfully pioneered the Serviced Office concept in the late 1970's and subsequently created business footprints that span the globe.
Co-work has taken the principles so well established in the Serviced Office industry and incorporated unique design elements that span nature, industrial and a touch of retro. Some even go as far as offering beer on tap and building climbing walls within the facility. In the past 12 months, I have had the opportunity to tour different facilities around the world; including locations in, the USA, Asia and Australia. It was a real treat to see the different spaces come to life and be able to compare and evaluate the similarities and differences that exist across different facilities and locations.
In conjunction with the Serviced Office sector I believe that Co-work holds many lessons for corporates in providing solutions that are both flexible and allow employees to choose where, when and how they best want to work.
But isn’t co-work just a hip fit-out and bean bags?
In my view it’s not the fit-out nor the bean bags that have made Co-work so successful. It’s often said the best businesses are those that meet a clear customer need and go above and beyond in servicing this need - Co-work is no different. A titanic shift is taking place how people are employed, over 50% of the workforce expected to be self-employed by 2035, vs. only 35% at present. This is driving a huge proliferation in the creation of small business around the world, “Business really is the new Black”.
Providers of flexible office space have stepped into the traditional market and offer a product that meets the requirements of small businesses - both start-ups and those that are growing. A place to work is a key input for any business and enabling flexibility at a cost effective price point is extremely valuable. However, these factors combined with a funky design is not enough. The design is targeted at attracting a specific type of user to a given facility and this is where the real magic is created.
For example, Bespoke in San Francisco targets start-up technology companies in the retail sector and is located in a shopping mall, the facility itself has pop up showcase suites for businesses to showcase their products. This is a natural extension of the model employed by Servcorp in the Serviced Office sector where professional service providers are targeted via providing upscale suites in premium locations.
When a space is purpose built for a specific customer group like-minded businesses will be attracted to the space enabling the generation of connections, growth opportunities and a real sense of community amongst those that occupy the space. The facilities that have performed particularly well have also created specialised technology platforms that exist solely to generate this sense of community.
So what does this mean for Corporates?
Corporates can take learnings from this customer driven, purpose designed approach in creating workspaces. Look at workspace design as a tool for your organisation to enable your staff to freely communicate and collaborate with each other. Spaces should be designed around the culture of each individual organisation and not simply determined by the latest trend. Involve staff in the design and fit-out of the workspace, it provides a great opportunity to give your staff a personal voice while strengthening your company's culture from within.
Interested to find out more?