The big business of coworking
Currently preparing to make its initial public offering, coworking giant WeWork is presently valued at of $47 billion. With over 5,000 staff in 280 locations, across 86 cities in 32 countries the rapidly growing business is a force to be reckoned with in the flexible and coworking space market.
This week however, in an article on City AM, Jonathan Hausmann has highlighted the problems of the coworking model, where small businesses, tech entrepreneurs and freelancers are being pushed aside by big corporations jumping on the coworking band waggon. Recognising the benefits in attracting and retaining staff when compared the sprawling homogenous corporate business parks and campuses, businesses are keen to take space in these dynamic and exciting spaces where people love to work, collaborate, network and socialise.
Today, coworking as we know it is a clear departure from its humble origins. Once a necessity of small, project-led freelancers and entrepreneurs to keep overheads low and share resources, coworking is now a lifestyle product; a casual approach to white collar work being leveraged by large corporations to attract and retain talent. HSBC recently signed a deal with WeWork in London for 1000 desk spaces in their Southbank Place location?
Despite the obvious challenges that this poses to those small businesses and freelancers who are facing increased competition from large corporates for space at these locations, the benefits of working in the these environments are obvious.
One in five in the UK report they feel lonely and many believe this has fuelled a demand for flexible and coworking space that allows people to feel a sense of belonging and connection.
However, as noted by Forbes’ Danielle Brooker, establishing this coworking culture is not “as simple as opening the doors to a new space” which has led to a number of coworking operators establishing methods of screening applications to assess potential tenant’s desire to engage with the wider coworking community.
In our recent article on workplace wellbeing, we highlighted the importance to businesses of playing an active role in maintaining the mental and physical wellbeing of their staff. Many larger businesses have doubled down on coworking as a wellbeing initiative, recognising how important flexibility is to their younger workforce in particular, whose expectations of the world of work are more divergent than ever before.
Co working outside of London
Market leaders, WeWork, are driving the growth in the flex-space market in the UK. In Manchester, flexible space has increased at a rate of 350%, outpacing London’s 210% as the coworking provider moves out to the regions.
Bristol’s growing technology sector is leading the demand for flexible space in the city and was recently recognised as the country’s most productive tech cluster.