Adappt encourages Coworking

Taming the Coworking Beast

People are working differently than they were ten years ago. Differently than one year ago. Differently than two weeks ago. There’s a new beast in office spaces. That beast is the creation of traditional coworking, defined in Harvard Business Review as “membership-based workspaces where diverse groups of freelancers, remote workers, and other independent professionals work together in a shared communal setting.” Ten years ago, such collaborative workspaces were nearly nonexistent outside of Silicon Valley. Today, they have spread to the global stage and simultaneously expanded into corporate coworking. According to a 2017 CBRE report, 44% of corporations are already using some type of flexible workspace. Well over half (65%) of the companies surveyed expect to use coworking as part of their office portfolio by 2020. JLL predicts that, by 2030, up to 30% of office space will have an open layout. Coworking is no longer confined to Silicon Valley or startups. In 2016, PricewaterhouseCoopers converted all their US offices into open layout coworking designs. As recently as this past year, companies such as Verizon, Barclays, and IBM have started operating in coworking spaces to gain access to cutting-edge innovation. For the purposes of Adappt, “coworking” means both traditional coworking and corporate coworking.

There are, of course, numerous benefits to coworking. Whether as part of a startup or a large company, working at a coworking space can foster improved employee morale, innovation, and a collaborative workspace. In addition, such spaces can cut costs by freeing up desks from employees who often work at home. Despite these benefits, this new beast in commercial offices can be difficult to measure and manage. Without assigning employees to desks, how can a company be certain of the ROI, especially when the initial benefits can be intangible? When all desks are assigned and there is a 1:1 ratio between people and desks, occupancy and efficiency are easy to track. In unassigned environments, a lack of proactive planning and management can lead to a hairy situation in which employees are actually less happy and less productive.

The best way to tame a wild animal is to understand it. Much as Cesar Millan could tame misbehaving pets on The Dog Whisperer by understanding the appropriate way to control them, companies can optimize their workspaces by understanding their utilization and environmental conditions. Since workers in the modern era are increasingly knowledge-centric, as opposed to pulling levers in factories or strictly obeying guidelines from supervisors, understanding the ideal method for creating an efficient workplace is nearly impossible without concrete, quantitative data.

Quantitative data on a workspace, such as a workplace utilization or environmental conditions, can have tangible and less tangible effects. Understanding that only 70 out of 100 desks are ever occupied at any one time or that your 12-person meeting rooms never house more than four people at a time will allow you to downsize, cut energy costs, or reallocate some of that unused space for another purpose. This tangibly can produce real cost-savings, as the price of the commercial real estate is steadily rising and real estate is typically the second-largest controllable expense. On the less tangible side, freeing up space and monitoring conditions for environmental control, such as temperature, can increase employee morale and productivity, thereby also benefiting the company. In new coworking spaces particularly, gathering quantitative data is the best way to understand how to allocate the space, which simultaneously maximizes employee comfort and workplace efficiency.

Ten years ago, commercial office spaces were relatively uniform in that they all operated under the standard cubicle or assigned desk format. In the past ten years, though, coworking has been discovered as an alternative workplace strategy with advantages over structured offices for certain industries. More recently, those advantages have been recognized by top global corporations. The novelty of this new method has created a beast which, if untamed, could potentially be detrimental to a company. By gathering and analyzing quantitative data on how the coworking space operates, a company can not only control the chaos but even turn the beast into a crucial asset.

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