There was a time when coworking spaces were marketed as a low-rent version of office space for those who choose OpEx over CapEx due to financial necessity.
Those days are long gone.
Coworking communities and the freelance lifestyle are defining themselves as destinations that are vast improvements over old-fashioned offices. They are collaboration hubs, networking powerhouses, and self-driven incubators.
Here are five recent stories that outline the new roles played by coworking and freelancing in the sharing economy.
SMEs Move Into New Spaces
In a report by the Global Workspace Association (GWA), the growth of coworking real estate took off in 2017.
One big surprise in this report is that nearly half (47%) of coworking real estate is occupied by small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Although coworking providers used to target freelancers heavily, now just 20% of their tenants are solopreneurs. Another 12% are remote workers from major corporations. This change in tenants is one reason why 80% of these spaces offer options for private offices.
Jamie Russo, Executive Director of the GWA, said, “As corporations look to increase employee productivity with tools like flexibility, reduced commutes, and compelling work environments, landlords will look to market their buildings by meeting that criteria and offering a variety of amenities, workspace configurations, and managed communities to keep users engaged. Landlords may choose to partner with experienced coworking operators to deliver on hospitality and community activation.”
Tablets Fade as Phones Grow
All around the world, smartphones continue to saturate markets, especially in the developing world, as tablet sales have flattened. In the US, tablet usage is relatively high because they are often used by sales and training departments at corporate accounts, while smaller businesses and freelancers rely more on smartphones as universal remotes for operating their businesses.
Flurry Analytics reported that smartphones are the preferred mobile device by millennials (in the 18 - 34 age group) while tablets are preferred by older workers due to the size of the screens. 36 percent of US smartphone users say they plan on buying a smartphones with a larger screen in the near future.
Setting a New Record
The coworking community in Kansas City announced their plans to set a new world record in August for the largest single gathering of coworkers ever.
In honor of International Coworking Day on August 9, the Kansas City Coworking Alliance has invited all nearby entrepreneurs, contractors, freelancers, and the self-employed to join them for a series of events in their honor. They hope to achieve official recognition of “most number of people coworking in one place at one time.”
Kansas City is already home to the one of the world’s largest coworking spaces and will be adding more than 300,000 sq. ft. of shared office space over the next two years.
Telecom Trends Converge
While shared work spaces have expanded to absorb more real estate in the country, large telecoms have been selling off hardware and shrinking their physical footprint.
Those two trends have just come together as Verizon is converting old store fronts and copper wire storage buildings into coworking spaces. The National Real Estate Investor reported, “In a pilot program anchored by co-working spaces, Verizon already has transformed four of its urban telco buildings in the U.S.— buildings that at one time were teeming with telephone operators and brimming with bulky telephone equipment.”
Next up will be 150 locations scheduled for conversions in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Verizon is collaborating with WeWork, the nation’s largest coworking company with acquisitions of more than 5.1 million sq. ft over the past two years.
Freelancers Love Freelancing
A common story in the media is that downsizing and slow hiring are driving the growth of coworking and freelancing.
That’s not what the statistics show, however. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of freelancers report that they chose this lifestyle intentionally, not that they had to turn to freelancing out of necessity.
There are many eye-opening findings like this in UpWork’s Freelancing in America 2016 report, now available as a massive interactive SlideShare.
For example, half of freelancers say that no amount of money could entice them back to a 40-hour office job and 79% said that freelancing affords a much better life than the traditional world of work.
There are now more than 55 million freelancers in the country, and another 5 million who are working two jobs, planning on going freelance in the near future. Of those, 73% said that new developments in technology have made it easier to find work as a freelancer.
The coworking movement has definitely grown up, and it's actually pretty cool.