It’s clear that co-working is far more than a passing trend, it’s now a huge global industry providing essential services to communities of start-ups, entrepreneurs and freelancers in cities around the world. In fact, these spaces are becoming so popular, some experts believe they could be the predominant way in which we work in the future, taking over from more traditional office environments.
However, like the creative companies they provide a home to, co-working spaces and accelerators (as I have written about previously) need to constantly change and grow in new and interesting ways to stay relevant. So what can we expect in 2016 and beyond and how will shared offices evolve to provide better services, more inspiring environments and ultimately, help the businesses of the future to flourish?
1. Bespoke co-working
With a huge variety of co-working options on offer, one prediction for the future is that shared spaces will have to work even harder to define differentiators and stand out from competitors. This can be done in a variety of ways, including focusing on specific industry verticals, such as fin-tech, fashion tech or health tech and creating workspaces to target various sectors.
At Interchange, we believe in diversity of industries and so our tenants span various sectors but have the common bond of technology and creativity at the heart of their businesses. Another way is to offer unique facilities or benefits, which can be anything from on-site yoga and meditation classes, to stand-up meeting rooms or artists studios. Going all out, one start-up space in East London recently announced plans to build an indoor lake on its top floor, while another allows tenants to cycle right up to their desks.
2. Access to support and advice
Another focus for this year and beyond will be the level of expert support and advice that coworking spaces will offer. It’s no longer enough to just provide desks and a coffee machine, shared spaces are increasingly about how they can really help companies grow and a key factor in this is access to investors, VCs and accelerators.
At Interchange, many of our tenants are also in the business of helping other startups to grow, including IncuBus, a pre-accelerator, the KPMG High Tech Growth team and 01 Ventures, a late stage investor. IncuBus, for example, are currently running a program called ‘The Future of Work’, which is offering a select number of startups the opportunity to explore areas such as AI and IoT in the workplace and develop their products further.
3. New technologies and facilities
Which brings me on to my next prediction that smart and connected technology is set to have a huge impact on co-working spaces (and their tenants) over the next few years. This is hardly surprising, as we’re already seeing wide usage of innovations such as smart locks and apps that help connect communities, meaning it’s likely that these trends will continue going forward. This is evident with the emergence of disruptive companies such as Slack, who are aiming to change the way colleagues communicate, and organisations like Evrythng, who are working towards making the products and facilities in our offices, such as lighting and climate control, even more smart and intuitive.
4. People power is still key
However, it’s important to remember that technology and design aren’t the only key factors, it’s the people and sense of community that really holds a coworking space together. When flexible working first became popular and tools such as Skype began to be widely used, some predicted the death of the office. In the future, we would all be working from home, in cafes or far-flung parts of the world and holding meetings via hologram technology, without having to physically be in the room.
But the reality is, although working remotely and flexibly can be great, it can also be very isolating. People want to work as part of a community or wider team, it’s encouraging, motivating and it can also be essential for growing business in terms of connections and shared ideas. Proximity to likeminded creatives and entrepreneurs has never been more important in helping businesses reach the next level.
5. Co-working becomes co-living
Taking the idea of community one step further, a recent innovation is the concept of co-living, which has been making headlines of late. This is where affordable office space and accommodation meet, so people will effectively be not only working, but also living alongside each other, in a specifically designed start-up hub.
This may be too much for some, and it remains to be seen whether this trend will truly take off, but what’s for certain is that coworking is a constantly evolving area and it will be exciting to follow how it develops over the next few years. Interchange’s newest space, Atrium, is opening in April 2016 and will offer a very unique 'inside is outside' experience within the heart of London’s historical Camden Market. Further updates coming soon but for now, more information can be found at http://interchange.io/.