The Future of Work Spaces: A Look at India’s Rising Coworking Spaces

The concept of coworking is not only helping these small-sized companies, startups and solopreneurs but big brands and mid-level companies too


Necessity is the mother of invention; this proverb stands true for most of the entrepreneurs today. When it comes to starting or creating new things, entrepreneurs today are leaving no stone unturned to broaden their skillset and making optimal use of their resources at the best possible cost. There was a time when it was impossible for many to think about working from home or working remotely. But with the changing scenario, things are also changing.

Few years ago, it was mandatory for a company to have a physical office. This would cost the company a bulk amount in renting and maintaining the office. Big brands and mid-level companies can totally afford this, but the problem was for small-sized companies, startups and solopreneurs. Now, the concept of coworking is not only helping these small-sized companies, startups and solopreneurs but big brands and mid-level companies too.

On the same side, the evolution of technology around the world is also complementing this coworking concept. The nature of work is also changing. And this shift is mainly due to emerging technologies associated with the fourth industrial revolution such as artificial intelligence, robotics, internet of things, machine learning and cloud computing. With all this, in the future, people will look for different ways of working. In particular, flexible and agile ways of working will become more common as they allow companies to react faster to changing conditions in the business environment.

Along with this trend, more and more work will be project-based and will require external staff. This in turn will increase the importance of networking and social skills. Work life will also be inclined by the pressure for cost efficiency and by the expectations of the millennial generation. This generation is the one now that is seen as the driving force behind the growing digital economy. As the new age working style evolved offering flexibility for all, the coworking industry is mushrooming effectively around the corner. The growth of coworking spaces has been taking place in spurts, across the world for some time now.

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This shift is mainly due to emerging technologies associated with the fourth industrial revolution such as artificial intelligence, robotics, internet of things, machine learning and cloud computing.

Coworking Space: The Big Deal

Coworking spaces are basically shared workspaces. They offer affordable office space for those looking to escape the isolation of a home office or coffee shop. These shared workspaces offer a suite of office-like amenities such as hot-desks, private meeting rooms, kitchens, coffee and more. Often, they also offer a community. Occupants typically are freelancers, entrepreneurs, start-ups and small teams, who want to take advantage of a flexible space.

The coworking phenomenon started in the West in the late 1990s. It is quite famous among freelancers, startups, entrepreneurs, and the tech industry. coworking was initially driven by the idea that creative workers would join forces to work together yet independently. Hence, everyone would contribute to maintaining the space.

On the same side, coworking spaces promised a different way of working. It is somewhere between standard work life in a traditional workspace. The vision of this new work was guided by the ideals of freedom, self-reliance, as well as community participation. Over the time, the numbers and diversity of spaces increased and coworking became an industry catering to a broader range of people and organisations.

Many consider that working from home might affect one’s productivity. However, one also cannot deny the advantages of working in sweat pants and prep for dinner during a quick work break. Maybe even throw in some laundry between client meetings, but soon you will realise that it is not easy to juggle too many things at the same time. Well, multi-task and working from home has drawbacks!

The Road Ahead For coworking Spaces

Growing with leaps and bounds, the future of coworking spaces looks promising in the coming decade. Here are some of the predictions that take us into the future of these shared spaces. The present 5 per cent share of the office space market that coworking spaces occupy is expected to surge up to 30 per cent by 2030. Besides the stalwarts in the industry such as WeWork, Springboard, Social and more, there will be an increase in small coworking spaces in tier-II and tier III towns and cities.

Witnessing the soaring demands, customised coworking spaces dedicated to specific industries are expected to gain ground. Along with a user-friendly environment, coworking spaces are expected to adopt an eco-friendlier design promoting use of fresh air, natural sunlight and open spaces reinforcing the idea of sustainability. Besides leasing office space, coworking spaces may also offer shared talent, research and technology promoting overall productivity

Millennials are inclined towards coworking spaces for a few reasons such as affordability and not having to worry about the overheads. Here is how coworking spaces are planning to attract and maintain clients in the future:

Flexible Office

With the present situation around, it is not easy to lease an office. It is just not cost-efficient for companies anymore as many are indulging in a hybrid workforce — means most of the employees are working from home. It concerns companies operating in all business niches. However, all those enterprises still need a workspace for employees that come to the office, for remote staff when they need to come, for team meetings, etc.
Coworking spaces are now turning into super flexible offices and are meeting the requirements of companies by using a hybrid workforce. These spaces can easily transform your traditional amenities into something futuristic with relevant desk booking technology. Employees will use it to book desks for a day when they need to show up in the office.

Diverse Communities & Niche-specific Coworking Spaces

Coworking spaces broaden their target audience. Apart from freelancers, startups, and solopreneurs, they are ready to partner with big companies, who want to save some money by sharing offices and neighbouring other teams.

Along with the phenomenon described above, we notice that some coworking spaces claim themselves as dedicated to a certain industry niche or group of entrepreneurs. A field-centric coworking space is a perfect place for people of similar occupations to share ideas, collaborate, productive, and come up with revolutionary solutions.

Rise of Hybrid Coworking Models

Hybrid coworking models are also on the rise and are expanding in a big way. Hybrid coworkings are the drop-in spaces that appear in hotels, stores, and restaurants. Businessmen want to take advantage of the shared economy and earn more money. This is the reason they are transforming a restaurant into a coworking space in the daytime and back into an entertainment facility at night. Similarly, they are also combining gyms and coworking to create a wellness-oriented facility. The cost of hybrid coworking spaces is low for the members, they are free from membership fees but still can enjoy perks like free unlimited coffee and discount for lunch and specials.

Social Center

Due to the ongoing pandemic, many skillful people lost their jobs. Few coworking spaces like Hatcham House, London offered them free workstations to re-group, reconnect, learn something new, and continue their search for a new job. There is no doubt that such social projects imply certain expenses, but new members bring energy and new ideas to the community. They value their subsidised memberships and are always ready to give back in new ways. Similarly, other community members with profitable businesses are willing to join the programme and sponsor the free memberships or hire unemployed members for work to ensure that more people get help in a difficult situation. Helping people through this gives a feeling that they belong to something more than just a work-space, to a work club.

Multi-location Operators & Global Membership Passes

After the final victory over Covid-19, coworking space operators will work on scaling their businesses and expanding their global reach. Currently, a big number of people are working remotely and this number will continue to increase. Coworking spaces need to cover this high demand. Witnessing the demand, those multi-location coworkings are going to issue global membership passes to their members. This is a good practice as modern businessmen spend a lot of their time travelling. It will be a big advantage to get the similar set of amenities for uninterrupted work.

Internet of Things & Automation

The year 2021 will be a further transformation of coworking spaces into smart dynamic areas. Coworking operators outfit their spaces with the latest technologies, new wireless devices, effective software combos, and countless integrations of their coworking space management software. All those gadgets, technologies, synchronised calendars, and interactive dashboards must be controlled through a single unified interface. Innovations are aimed not to overwhelm residents but significantly improve and simplify their coworking experience.

Meeting rooms and desk booking should be a fool-proof process. When a customer comes to the coworking space, they open the door with a smartphone and go straight to the workplace without any delays or direct contact with the community manager. The entire facility with its perks and services is available on a member’s smartphone, which makes their experience really seamless.

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Along with a user-friendly environment, coworking spaces are expected to adopt an eco-friendlier design promoting use of fresh air, natural sunlight and open spaces reinforcing the idea of sustainability.

Health & Comfort on Priority List

Members spend most of their days at the coworking spaces. It is obvious that everything they touch should be quality, safety, health, and well-being centered. This is important as we all have entered into the Covid-19 second wave zone. Following severe hygiene rules should be the first priority. Supplying members with ergonomic furniture is the initial step. Move forward and conduct yoga classes, meditation rooms, or even fully-fledged gyms. Having all these wellness amenities in one building will make your members stay there longer. Establishing bonds positively affects member retention rate and overall business income.

Open Areas & Smarter Designed Coworking Spaces

Flexible workspace design will change. Avoid dense offices and cluttered settings. Go for open space with physical distancing options. More workspaces will add open-air areas to their facilities. More premises will be focused on what people are looking to accomplish, like telecon rooms, project rooms, and team collaboration rooms. Now, the spaces will be concentrated on health and wellness even more than before. Upgrade the spaces with air systems, monitor temperature, and air quality. They will strive to let more natural light in, adopt biophilia philosophy, and bring nature into spaces.

Green, Eco-Friendly Environments

Green, eco-friendly environments are listed among the current workspace design trends. The ideas of nature preservation and environment protection should be on the list. You can start with minimising the usage of plastic at your workspace, utilise sun energy, substitute all items with those that can be recycled, and get a second life. Bring in more and more living or indoor plants to reduce the stress and anxiety of members at work. Encourage well-being and sustainability, refresh the air, and decorate the premises to get more eco-friendly environments.

Preeti Verma
Preeti Verma
An alumna of IIMC, Preeti writes on global and domestic business, life cycle of a business and its stages. Her fourteen years of stint includes The Economic Times, Business Standard, Financial Express, Tehelka, Businessworld and Times Internet.

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