Category: Design

Coworking in Asia to challenge traditional hierarchies and make room for innovation?

In January 2015, the Hubud team created and hosted Coworking Unconference Asia, which had around 120 attendees from around Asia. During the last session at the event, the team asked the audience whether or not they should form an Asian Coworking Alliance.  The simple question led to an impassioned discussion about the potential alliance, concluding with 3 coworking spaces offered to take the discussion forward. As many coworkers and space managers know, it’s difficult to get there types of projects off the ground, especially because they are often born from passion, not revenue.

Fast forward to the 2nd Coworking Unconference Asia in 2016, and the CU Asia team decided to get things off the ground and launched the Coworking Alliance somewhat unilaterally. In its first year, CAAP has 30 paying member spaces and has offered 17 webinars for coworking space owners and staff. We caught up with the co-founder of Hubud, Steve Munroe, to discuss the coworking scene in Asia and how the formation of a coworking alliance can help global coworking communities grow.

Coworking has grown exponentially in some parts of Asia. Is the model considered to be a viable option for corporate players and local freelancers? 

Like with a lot of things, the industry is younger in Asia but it is moving faster.  Corporate players are getting involved, which includes both CRE players and corporate customers. As a result, investment is scaling up, for example, Spacemob in Singapore just completed a $5.5. million raise.  At the same time, there has been an explosion of smaller players entering the market.  Last year when we held the Coworking Academy there were only 35 attendees, and this year there were over 100. Attendees came from major markets, such as Jakarta, as well as rural areas.

On that same note, what role do you see coworking playing in the context of redefining “traditional” work culture in the region? 

In Asia,  relationships are traditionally hierarchical, within institutions like companies and governments, as well as within society. So the flatter social systems that are typically seen, and also encouraged, in coworking spaces is a bit of a change.

Steve Munroe, co-founde Hubud, Bali

Are corporate entities in the region embracing coworking? 

Some, particularly in more internationalized markets like Singapore and Hong Kong where some corporates are placing some of their staff in coworking spaces. There are also examples of corporations hiring coworking space operators to consult them on how to ‘import’ the coworking culture into their internal environments, in relation to design, internal communications, etc.

Who are the most likely members to join coworking spaces in Asia? 

This varies greatly by location. The markets in Bali or Melbourne or Hong Kong are very different from one another.  In many countries, however, the early adopters tend to come from places where coworking has been around longer so they tend to better understand the value proposition, such as North America and Europe.

What are the benefits of forming a coworking alliance? 

In its first year, our focus was simple and modest. we aimed to create the kind of networking connections and peer-to-peer learning opportunities for coworking space operators in the same way that we do for our members. Therefore focus has been on hosting events, online webinars and just creating channels for us to communicate more frequently.

This year we are looking to move increasingly into collective negotiating, such as getting discounts from vendors that benefit both our members and/or their members. In addition to increasing beneficial relationships, we aim to focus on research and advocacy that will allow us to support operators looking to start discussions with their local governments/partners and approach regional bodies like ASEAN.

From your experience, what types of partnerships/collaborations have sparked from the alliance that would not have had otherwise? 

Again, the biggest thing for us this year was having members teach each other and share resources (templates, checklists) that benefit one another. Right now we are not actively collaborating with other bodies, but we would like to going forward. The truth is, any kind of alliance is challenging to operate and deliver meaningful value to its members and partners. When we started it, our stated commitment was that we would not start a ‘talking head’ kind of industry association.  So we will see how we and others do with that and navigate what works for everyone in the process.

 

 

COWORKING EUROPE 2017 (Dublin, November 8-9-10) : REGISTRATION IS OPEN

The design of our space is research backed to promote varied types of interactions-Ben Gattie,The Working Capitol

Ben Gattie, the co-founder, and CEO at The Working Capitol wanted to nurture creative work environments in his home country of Singapore. After working for a real estate developer focused on SoHo loft conversions in New York City, Ben returned to Singapore about 8 years ago and set up The Bamboo Group, a boutique real estate company specializing in the redevelopment of neighborhood shop houses. Deciding to enter a more meaningful and multifaceted industry centered around creating inspired work environments for companies big and small, Gattie co-founded The Working Capitol with his sister, Saranta.

Today the professional landscape in Singapore is changing, and it’s all thanks to places like The Working Capitol. We caught up with Ben to discuss these changes and how his work is enabling more open and flexible work environments.

Hi, Ben. What is work culture like in Singapore? Have people embraced social workspaces? 

It was quite conventional in a lot of ways until a few years ago with the mainstream emphasizing job security and working out of the central business district. Singapore has made a conscious effort to decentralize, and independent operators such as ourselves have legitimized fringe locations and social workspaces. Thankfully, Singapore is accustomed to change at an aggressive pace and is very adaptable to new things. Singapore apparently has over 60+ co-working spaces so I certainly hope this means people have embraced social workspaces! That said, in our earlier days, it was essential to educate people about what we were doing and to adopt a genuine spirit of giving before we could expect to get in return.

Does TWC aim to promote shared work culture and if so, how?

Ben Gatti

Definitely. We try to promote shared work culture across as many touch points as possible. The design of our space is research backed to promote varied types of interactions, ensuring there are different environments suited for different types of work or social engagement.

We want all our members to feel a sense of ownership of the entire building regardless if they may have signed up for a dedicated workspace. Our events and programming ensure that people come together across different points of interest, which we populate according to the verticals of arts and culture, personal and business development, health and wellness and lifestyle and entertainment.

Furthermore, our team is genuinely interested in what our members do and aims to facilitate interactions and connections whenever possible.

When TWC was being developed, was special attention paid to design? 

Yes. Design with intention is key  i.e understanding why the spaces exist and for what purpose it serves. Design is always best when it puts the member experience first and naturally weaves these human experiences into the built environment.

In your experience, what type of design promotes a better work culture, while also increasing productivity?

Specifically, in the case of The Working Capitol, the flow of one space into another, the incorporation of natural light, a lively color palette and ensuring there are different types of micro-environments suited for different types of work made accessible to everyone have been major contributors to our unique energy.

Do you believe that the physical design of a shared workspace is an essential part of the model? 

It is an essential part of the model. It directly influences not only how well we can perform operationally, but how successful we can be at creating the right energy and interactions. If the hardware is poorly designed, it makes it that much more challenging for our team and all their efforts to bring the space to life successfully, ensuring people are inspired to do their best work.

What types of members do you attract? For example are you focused on the local community or do does TWC extend themselves to digital nomads? 

Our members truly span a broad cross section. Being fortunate enough to have an international upbringing and exposure to different cultures, it was extremely important for us to champion diversity in terms of the type of industries we cater to, as well as different stages of development. We welcome everyone from solo-preneurs to large companies. That diversity can only help to provide different perspectives and learnings to local businesses in Singapore and enable people to grow in both business and personally.

On that same note, do you have corporate members or business partners? If so, why do you think that they are drawn to a place like TWC?

Our corporate members tell us the main draw has been to attract and retain the best talent. They want to provide their teams with access to inspiring spaces, access to amenities and opportunities to engage with other members and companies.

CHECK OUT SOCIALWORKPLACES.COM UPCOMING EVENTS

“Coworking can bring tired workspace back to life”-Hub Newry, Northern Ireland

In 2012, husband and wife team Patrick and Suzanne Murdock took a big risk. They decided to develop a coworking space in Newry, Northern Ireland, at a time when the city was still in the depths of the recession. Three years later, The Hub Newry is still standing, offering a community environment for start-ups, freelancers, small businesses and community groups based on a sustainable and ethical working ethos. With a “combination of hard work, perseverance, and the support of the local business community”, the Hub is now one of the leading coworking spaces in Northern Ireland.

Hi, Patrick and Suzanne. What inspired you to open the Hub Newry and can you please tell us a bit about the space today?

Patrick: We had just returned from England and I was self-employed working out of our spare room and living a solitary existence where days could go by when the only face to face contact I would have was with family. I needed to be a part of a coworking space and the only way this was going to happen in Newry was by starting our own.

The Hub Newry was born from modest beginnings, located behind the boarded up façade of an old pub, which had become another victim of the recession. Today the space has evolved into an established city centre fixture, housing a community of entrepreneurs and micro businesses who work in partnership with each other to achieve the most elusive of business goals in recent years. We recently won the award for ‘best premises’ at the 2015 Greater Newry Area business awards, which comes hot on the heels of the Hub achieving “Gold” sustainability certification during the summer by Green Tourism.

What is the coworking scene currently like in Newry and did you need to introduce the community to the concept?

Suzanne: It has not been without its challenges. When we relocated from the UK, which is essentially a pro- business environment, we had no idea of all the difficulties that we would face when dealing with the infamous Northern Ireland red tape. Many of the things that we took for granted in London came as a shock in Newry, especially coworking!

It took a good year at the onset of our project to roll out the concept of coworking to Newry and the surrounding areas. Even though there were shared offices, hacker spaces and technical hubs, coworking, in the true sense of the word, didn’t really exist in Northern Ireland.

What types of action did you take in order to introduce the public to the concept?

In the early days, a second business helped to fund The Hub Newry as the office was literally empty. The first residents were those who were travelling or who worked abroad and had already seen the benefits of coworking. But, we were resilient and our ‘can do’ culture helped us to overcome many of the problems we faced. A lot of networking and obscure events including hosting the Oktoberfest Promo Video helped us along the way!

How does the coworking scene in Newry differ from the very advanced community in London?

Newry certainly has some “quirks”. A very strong sense of community and the need to succeed helps to drive the coworking concept here. We seem to attract various clusters of industries, which are successful in Northern Ireland including building, construction as well as creative & digital businesses, which all work together effectively.

What are some of the different needs/expectations of your members?

Businesses here seem to have to work harder in order to be profitable. There is far less start-up capital and most of the local government money is allocated to public sector and charitable projects. Despite this, coworking is now very effective and residents have higher expectations. Desks are far cheaper than in London and our businesses feed off each other well with regards to referrals, contacts and shared expertise.

In your opinion, is coworking self-sustainable and why is that? What do you think can be done to increase sustainability?

Yes, very much so. The local government has recognized the benefits of coworking and also sees a need to lower local taxes, which applies to coworking spaces. There is also much more collaboration between coworking spaces and local traditional businesses, but there is still work to be done in regards to solidifying partnerships between these businesses. Overall, coworking is certainly more sustainable if there is a “twinning system” or more of an international network of coworking businesses to give residents access to international offices.

Coworkers at the Hub Newry, Northern Ireland

Coworkers at the Hub Newry, Northern Ireland

The Hub is now planning to expand and will be opening a second premises in 2016. Since we are growing and we have basically mapped our growth to that of our residents, we have received feedback letting us know that our members are outgrowing our workspace, but that they still want to continue to be a part of our community.

Can the open workspace/coworking model play an important role in regenerating communities? 

Definitely. Tired workspace can be brought back to life for low cost and in a very sustainable way.

We now have a huge expertise to tap into when engaging with local colleagues, communities and businesses. This not only works from a business perspective but also allows us to mobilise members to work on voluntary and community projects such as the urban garden.

Why is this innovative model of work important in regards to how we understand the future of work?

Coworking plays a vital part in giving work experience placements, interview practice, coaching and assisting the resident businesses as well as the coworking business.

The Hub Newry is very community driven and also a big champion of green ethics, sustainability & culture for which we’ve recently been awarded the “Gold” certification by Green Tourism UK. Being very involved in community initiatives for both local businesses and social groups, we’re also really keen to participate in wider geographical areas with other coworking groups, businesses & community groups both Irish, UK & European.

Have you been to the Coworking Europe Conference before?

This is our first conference! We’re looking forward to gaining an international taste of what’s happening in the world of coworking. We are also very much looking forward to sharing experiences and ideas while simultaneously promoting our country and city to an international audience.

What will you be speaking about at this year’s conference?

We will be speaking about establishing a coworking space in an economically disadvantaged area. We will discuss the challenges of bringing a new concept to a traditionally conservative audience, and how our space helped resident businesses succeed. We will also speak about what it takes to establish a coworking space on a budget while still being able to remain sustainable and achieving a design excellence on a budget.

“Many people who came to work at Starbucks discovered that the coworking environment was a much better solution”-Ashley Proctor

Ashley Proctor runs both Creative Blueprint and Foundery in the vibrant city of Toronto, Canada. The newly renovated 15,000 sq ft community hub is an accessible venue run by Ashley and her business partner, Jake Koseleci, who also owns the property and leases space to Creative Blueprint and Foundery, in addition to a Starbucks.

Established in 2006, Creative Blueprint is a pioneer and leader in Toronto’s arts and coworking communities. Creative Blueprint provides studios, services and support for artists and entrepreneurs. The CB Studios in downtown Toronto are home to practicing visual artists, designers, makers and creative entrepreneurs.

We caught up with Ashley to talk about what it was like to partner with Starbucks and how coffee culture can help coworking spaces grow.

Hi, Ashley. Can you please tell us a bit about the current state of Foundery and Creative Blueprint?

Established in 2010, Foundery currently operates two Coworking and Event Spaces within The Foundery Buildings. Foundery is one of Toronto’s first coworking spaces and we are home to a diverse and vibrant community of passionate, independent freelancers and artists. Foundery provides 2 unique shared coworking environments in addition to private offices and meeting rooms.

In the new year, we are planning to launch an exchange program with our newest Creative Blueprint location in Seattle, Washington (in partnership with Office Nomads).

Why did you decide to partner with Starbucks rather than opening your own coffee shop? 

My original plans for a coworking space included art studios, as well as an art gallery and cafe. The businesses are all complimentary and they support each other. The Foundery Buildings were the first venue where we could open all of these elements under one roof. Yet, we had an entire building to renovate and a mortgage to cover, so we decided that it would be a good idea to partner with an established anchor tenant that we didn’t feel bad about charging market rental rates.

Ashley Proctor

Ashley Proctor

At the time when we bought the building, there was construction on the street and we needed to increase foot traffic. Also, coworking was not as popular as it is today and many people were still unfamiliar with the concept. Thus, the cafe gave people a reason to come by and check out the newly renovated building.

Do you feel that this partnership brought Foundery more opportunity?

Yes. Overall, it’s really events, coffee and casual opportunities that make connections and what helped to introduce the community to our space and to the coworking movement.

It has been a great way to find and to introduce people who need a community to the coworking concept. The partnership also offers a secure stream of patrons for the cafe and a secure revenue stream for the building. It also works out well when we need breakfast or coffee for our in-house workshops and events!

What are some of the specific benefits of having a partnership with Starbucks and what does it bring to the tenants and to the space owners?

Our members love coffee. We drink coffee all day and we also like snacks. Since we have our own desks next door, we don’t take up precious real-estate in Starbucks.

As a coworking space operator, I also visit the cafe to tell those people who are working on laptops that there is a better option that’s right next door. I’ve actually invited many cafe customers in for a trial day at Foundery and that worked out well both for Starbucks and for us.

Does having a partnership outside of the space provide the ability to impact the greater community on the whole as you have a wider reach?

Our reach was initially wider with Starbucks as a tenant, but now we have since established our location and our own community. Today, our events and members attract new visitors, like the CB Gallery, which is open to the public during exhibitions and we also participate in many city-wide initiatives that open our doors to the community.

Have you found that there could be a potential risk that your members would want to work in Starbucks, rather than your space?

Quite the opposite. Many people who came to work at the cafe discovered Foundery and decided that the coworking environment was a much better solution. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy going out for coffee, but I’d rather work from the Foundery rooftop patio or in my studio with friends. I’m so much more efficient and productive in a coworking space than I could be in any cafe.

What would convince you to have your own cafe? 

Now that we have established the model at this location, we’d like to see another service provider operating in the space. We are actually in the process of replacing the Starbucks with an independent operator that is more in line with our vision and mission for the space and community.

As we are a building full of independent artists and entrepreneurs, so it would be nice to see our peers using the space. Yet, we are taking our time in looking for the right cafe partner or collaborator who can provide amazing coffee, healthy food options and catering options for our members and many events.

How to bring balance between Automation and Human interaction in a coworking space ?

As human-centric workspaces are rise, so are workplace management tools.

Nexudus Spaces co-founder, Carlos Almansa has recognized the need for optimizing everyday tasks in the workplace.  

Technology as a compliment, not a replacement

Some might be sceptical of running operations digitally, out of fear that it might take away from the human experience. But that just depends how we look at it. Technology can help, but not without a strong management team at the core of the coworking space. Tools such as Slack, Facebook groups or  WhatsApp are not enough.

“Indeed, these tools, including our Nexudus platform, help people communicate with one another, says Carlos, but ultimately if the management team doesn’t work on a day-to-day basis to bring people to these tools and encourage them to post content, it won’t work”

Better understanding member needs through automation

Take an example of a good synchronization between automation and human interaction : check-ins.

Automatic check-in technology can help you better understand your member’s needs. “It  provides operators with a considerable number of detailed reports on how you space is used, so they can discover useful information, i.e. the most active members, peak hours in the space, busiest day of the week, etc”, says Carlos.

Kisi Access Control for coworking spaces

Kisi Access Control for coworking spaces

That way, you can monitor when the space is most used.

Knowing who is coming and going can create a sense of ease for space managers, which plays into how operators choose to secure their coworking space.

If space operators choose to automate physical access to the space, they also can do so by implementing “access control systems, such as Kisi or DoorFlow”.

Such tools allow both operators and members to enhance their coworking needs, by tracking hours of operation and providing flexible use of the space, adds Carlos Almansa. As a result, the human driven operation will just come out better. 

Community Building : again, online AND in person

While it would be nice to offer a personalized experience to each and every member each day, the tasks pile up, and most likely members will be more disappointed rather than satisfied with the results.

Remember, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Take the booking process :  “Allowing your space members to book resources and rooms online makes day-to-day space management a lot simpler.”  

That way, you can focus on building better relationships with your members, rather than waste time with manual low adding value tasks.

And tomorrow will be taken over by A.I. ?

Having an active blog running for your coworking community also plays an important role in shared workspaces. As coworking evolves, the community aspect has gone beyond the walls of the coworking space and has become an all encompassing world.

We are not there, yet, but let’s think about A.I, in a not to distant future, which may be the running mate for atomizing the workplace.

Sure, but at the moment, it hasn’t quite got the human touch so vitally needed for human-based communication. co-working blog

However, when it comes to the future, we know that we haven’t even seen the beginning of the level of advancement from technology. For Carlos, the interaction between community members and coworking spaces is going to escalate in coming years. “The technology behind these spaces  should be there to foster such change, such as providing tools that encourage people to work together”.

 

“The word Digital Nomad doesn’t reflect the big trends behind the movement”- Sophie Ozdzinski, CoPass

Like many coworking projects, Copass was created out of necessity. Three years ago the coworking membership program, that now has a network of 700 plus individuals and companies around the globe, was born. Since the majority of Copass founders have been involved in the coworking movement since its very beginning, creating a network came naturally. With friends and fellow coworking space owners all over the world, it seemed natural to develop a way for people, not just digital nomads, to easily work from any of the numerous unique spaces around the world.

Sophie Ozdzinski, one of the four Copass founders, spoke with us about what it means to be professional in a time where we can work from anywhere.

Hi, Sophie. Can you please tell us a bit more about what Copass offers to coworkers? 

Today we are capable of working from anywhere.  Our platform offers freelancers, independents, digital nomads and remote workers the ability to work everywhere. This is the freedom to work across the street, across town, across the country or across an ocean, today. For companies, this flexibility means to go global. We offer startups and firms an elegant solution to their low-overhead, high-flexibility workplace needs. This is the simplicity of one worldwide membership to hundreds of spaces, today.

We still have a lot to achieve and a lot of exciting features to develop – with our recurrent question: Does it make the access to coworking communities easier for our members?

How did you realize that there was real digital nomad community developing that would allow for a platform like Copass to be successful?

Well, when we started Copass we didn’t even focus on the digital nomad community. There actually wasn’t even a name for this community. We’ve developed Copass to answer a need we already had ourselves, and we guessed that there would be more and more people willing to travel and work at the same time. We were right on this prediction!

Copass Camp

Copass Camp

Our focus is on everyone who needs flexible and enjoyable places to work from. The majority of our users actually use different spaces in the same city and aren’t digital nomads per say. Some do use it in many countries, but this is just a part of our users. We want to facilitate mobility at work and this is not limited to digital nomads.

That being said, the digital nomad community definitely exists today and it keeps on growing at an impressive rate. As a team, are part of this amazing community. We’ve met many people from this movement during the camps we’ve been organizing around the globe. Our camps act as temporary coliving/coworking communities based out of cool places like Lisbon, the Canary Islands, San Francisco, Bali and more…

Copass has been active long enough to see the coworking community grow and change. What are some of the major changes that have taken place?  

Soon after we launched Copass, we took part in the Digital Nomad (DNX) Conference in Berlin. Since then, we’ve attended the event multiple times. The last one for us was in Bangkok. The kind of people attending those events has clearly changed a lot over the years. We went from a vast majority of people dreaming of being digital nomads to a vast majority of people actually living the digital nomad lifestyle. We went from an idea to a reality.

That being said, there are different breeds of digital nomads. Some stay more than 6 months in each place and some only stay for a few days or weeks. Some travel full time, others only travel 3 months or less a year. Some have a place they call home, some don’t. What they all share is a desire to explore new places while getting some work done and having the flexibility to work anywhere.

Sophie Ozdzinski

Sophie Ozdzinski

As for statistics, it’s hard to find to find concrete ones concerning the movement. Digital Nomads are hard to define, as they are scattered over the globe and they are pretty independent people who aren’t in a permanent state. I am convinced the vast majority of digital nomads will only be full-time nomads for a small time in their lives. Probably somewhere between 1 and 5 years. At some point, people can get a bit tired of the loneliness or might want to settle down and have a family. Right now, it’s still pretty complicated to combine family and nomadism, although some people do it, it’s still very niche.

Overall, growth in the digital nomad movement is mainly something we all feel and experience, not something that produces concrete numbers. It’s definitely something that would help the movement.

In your opinion, why are coworking spaces so important to the development of remote professional communities?

When you work remotely, you can quickly suffer from loneliness and procrastination. In fact, loneliness and isolation are by far the number 1 problem that digital nomads report. That explains why camps like Copass have been so successful. It’s the best of both worlds.

Working from a coworking space helps remote workers to meet new people, and get their work done in a stimulating environment. Coworking spaces are fantastic gateways to new places where you can quickly meet like-minded people from around the world speaking several languages.

What are some of the current demands of digital nomads today?  

The digital nomad movement is at a stage where the term is now being taken seriously. It is intriguing to a lot of people. Some are in a more traditional job and dream of becoming nomads, some run large companies and can see the trend of nomadism and remote work.

How have they created a standard for remote work?

I believe digital nomadism and remote work can be a real chance for companies, especially those who struggle to recruit and retain talents in the younger generation, to grow. From our experience, and for many millennials, being offered the opportunity to work anywhere, at least part time, is a huge advantage. Some say it also is a good way to cut real estate costs for companies, but most of the time new types of expenses like company retreats will diminish this advantage.

What do you see as the potential workplace norm for the majority of employees in the future?

The problem with the word Digital Nomad is that it doesn’t reflect the big trends behind this movement. Not everybody can / wants to / will be a digital nomad. The big trend is that today a lot of work can be done from anywhere on a laptop as efficiently if not more than in a traditional office. This is the real new thing.

Whether people choose to travel the world, settle in the countryside, work from the local café, keep on going to the office is another story. We simply cannot ignore this new fact and organization and individuals can choose to redefine the way they work with this in mind. Offices will stay, but their form will change to match this new reality. Digital Nomadism is simply an extreme and very visible part of this massive change.

The digital nomad community has been criticized as only catering to a more elite class of workers. Do you think that there is a way that remote work could be available to more people? 

Becoming a remote worker is not so much a question of prices or revenues, it’s more a question of mindset and opportunities. All professions can’t be done abroad and some never will be. For example, the fact that being a digital nomad is expensive is a total myth. In fact, most nomads are nomads because the money they earn can afford them a much better lifestyle in Bali than in Paris or NYC. With 1500€ in Bali, you can live a very comfortable life, whereas you’ll struggle in Paris.

The limiting factor for digital nomadism is more about who CAN be a nomad, meaning who has the profession and freedom that allows it, and who WANTS to be a nomad. Not everybody wants this lifestyle.

The key to building a successful coworking platform is to understand your community

After the financial crisis, Spain was one of the countries that faced some of the highest unemployment rates in Europe. As a result, many professionals, freelancers, and business operators began to reimagine the professional landscape. In 2011, Ruth Martinez had a baby on the way and her husband had just started freelancing. In this time of change, they were exploring new options and had heard about the concept of coworking. After some time and research, they decided to start their own coworking community, Coworkidea. Next  week they will be celebrating the launch of their newest space, so we caught up with Ruth to find out more about the process of developing a space in one of Europe’s coworking capitals and what it means to be a successful coworking space operator.

Hi, Ruth. Coworkidea started out small but is now developing rapidly. Can you tell us a bit about this process and what steps did you take in order to properly develop?

When we launched 5 years ago, we went through some difficulties and at that time we were far from growing our idea. But, step-by-step, we slowly improved our business, learning how to offer better services to our members. The coworkers that came really liked the space, as well as the energy and environment. I believe that your project is what you attract, so we focused on creating a cool community, based on honest people, and community friendships.

Today, we have a solid community of workers who have been loyal to us since the beginning. As I said, they started off as freelancers who grew and Coworkidea has grown alongside them. We decided to expand with another space in the same building to help host our members as well as her freelancers. Our goal is to keep generating connections and enriching opportunities for freelancers.

What type of community do you provide and what types of members do you have currently working there?

We cater to a multidisciplinary community. Although, two main groups naturally developed. One is made of tech specialists (software and app developers, integrationists, programmers, designers…). And the other group is comprised of professionals within the building sector (architects, engineers, builders, and technical architects…).

Spain is known for having one of the most established coworking networks. Was it difficult for you to enter this market that some might say are overly saturated?

In 2011 there were only a few coworking spaces in Spain. Barcelona had more spaces than other cities, but there was still a lack of awareness, both within the sector and also amongst the general public. Although we all started without a clear reference, there were actually very few successful cases to follow. We basically went through the normal ups and downs, making mistakes and learning. We were gradually growing, and in 2016 we became established and have opened up a whole floor of around 450 square meters.

What is the current state of the Spanish Coworking market? And what makes it unique to other cities?

Today, we can say that our coworking sector has matured and has become more sustainable. There are some factors that triggered the high demand for coworking spaces was the major increase in people who lost their jobs after the crisis. Another remarkable fact is that Barcelona is now positioned as a tech and freelancer hub, which encouraged people to create startups and small businesses. Moreover, the city is a natural attraction for tourists and, therefore, digital nomads.

Would you say coworking has actually improved the job market, if so how?

I have no doubt that coworking has helped to improve the job market. The startups and small companies generate business, and I witnessed that from my work with Coworkidea. Some projects were launched three years ago as a freelance venture and over time have become a solid team of people.

In cities where here are already a lot of coworking spaces, what can new ones do to build successful platforms?

Ruth Martinez

Ruth Martinez

Barcelona has a lot to offer in regards to coworking, and the city also has strong competition. According to Coworking Spain, the main coworking platform, Barcelona currently has over 200 spaces registered on the platform, but it’s important to know that not all of them are actual coworking spaces. Those cases are when people with some extra space in their office decide to define themselves as a coworking space simply because they are renting out a couple of tables.

Of course, these aren’t considered actual coworking spaces, as the movement isn’t simply about renting out space but more about the people and growing a professional community, which brings value to members. On that note, my advice to all future space operators is that the key to building a successful platform is to understand your community and help it to organically grow.

Is it important for coworking space operators to embrace other spaces and work together?

Sure! Collaboration is a key element needed for the development of the sector. It allows spaces to speak as a unified voice when dealing with local institutions, ultimately allowing us more visibility and access to sponsors and partnerships. It also allows us to work together when facing common problems, while also inspiring new ideas and the chance to help coworkers achieve mobility, especially for those who are nomadic workers.

As the movement has matured, many coworking spaces in Europe are looking to expand their networks. What advice would you give to those looking to grow?

When we started it was completely different than it is now. Anyone who knew about coworking knew that we learned by taking action and especially by making mistakes. Today, we have a lot of experience and knowledge. We also have a second space, for which we have designed a strategy and business plan for expansion, including a very accurate financial study. Aside from that, we have collaborated with 2 coworking experts, Andrea García and Vanessa Sans, who helped us to design and launch the new space. Andrea designed the space and Vanessa drew up the strategy as well as the  content plan for the launch.

What are some things that should or should not be done when looking to properly expand, without compromising the community dynamic?

My advice for those looking to grow and expand should be that they make sure to have a consolidated and empowered coworking community. It is also very important to design a strategy as well as a business plan. Overall, coworking is a business and has to be profitable, so it is very important to know the viability of your project.

On top of coworking, we offer “transition spaces” for project teams or companies – Florencia Faivich (Urban Station)

The Latin American coworking scene is growing. 6 Years ago Urban Station coworking  was founded in Buenos Aires and has since then continued to strengthen its leadership position in the Latin American coworking market. With 10 Latin American locations,including Chile, Colombia, and Mexico, the coworking franchise plan to expand to the USA and Canada.

Urban Station has also embraced corporate coworking, and has signed agreements with companies like Heineken, Motorola, Samsung, Microsoft, among others, with the aim to launch events and other networking opportunities for developing a market conducive to double-digit growth. We caught up with one of Urban Station’s founders, Florencia Faivich to find out more about Latin American coworking developments.

Hi, Florencia. Can you please tell us a bit about the Urban Station project and your role within the space?

We developed Urban Station to be aligned with our users’ needs. That was what motivated our four founders, Juan Pablo Russo, Marcelo Cora, Claudio Bisurgi and myself, to create this Project.

Coming from leadership positions in based in various corporations, our vision was to become the world’s first network for mobile workers, while also leading the development of the coworking movement in Latin America. Our business venture is one that unites modern design, every type of office service, a flexible system and the possibility of belonging to a like-minded community: these were all components of the initial setup’s “combo.”

As Urban Station is a network of spaces, what is the at the core value system of your network?

Our mission as a company, as stated by creator Juan Pablo Russo, is to democratize the office. We work every day to facilitate a daily office space for everybody. We don’t have memberships, we keep our doors open to all,  and our motto is “enjoy working differently”.

Can you tell us a bit more about the Argentinian coworking scene?

The scene has evolved over the years, developing and gaining followers every day . Today there are more than 60 spaces throughout the country and the movement just continues to grow. The growing trend not only adds customers from the independent world, but also companies of all kinds are also working in such spaces.

Today, coworking spaces are part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, which also involves universities, accelerators , organizations such as Endeavor and the National Government

What has been the impact Urban Station has had on the community?

Urban Station Coworking

Urban Station Coworking

Our proposal was well received in the market and we installed a different concept in the coworking market. Our flexible format allows our clients to use our spaces to work or meet differently by the time each one needs.

Our pillars include flexibility, cutting-edge design, and networking. So far, our concept has been very well received by both local and international press

Has there been a rise of freelancers in Argentina due to the economic crisis?

The economic crisis has been here for the last ten years, so the rise of freelancers is not only related to that issue. It’s more related to global trends that include a new generation of objectives sparked by the Y and Z generations, are more related to freedom in the workplace as opposed to the more corporate model.

Have freelancers, like in some other countries, been criticized for not having a “normal job” and has that improved?

Not at all. Being a freelancer is considered to be normal here. There have been and still are a lot of success stories regarding entrepreneurs and independent workers.

Are there still challenges for self-employed individuals?

Yes, of course. One of the big ones is being able to maintain stability. People here are open to working on different projects, so they manage at the end of the day. They are also open to finding solutions in order to maintain financial stability, by combining different things. Yet, like many places, we need more laws and benefits that will protect independent workers as well as the market.

And what are the benefits of having a franchise model, rather than a singular space?

The franchise model allowed us to expand quickly, inside and outside of Argentina. Today, we currently have branches in Argentina, Chile, Colombia , Mexico and Egypt and for the users, it gives them access to a wide network and this is key for them to develop their activities and skill sets. Today, work includes mobility in many cases, so to offer our members a network is a huge advantage.

What types of members do you typically host?

Our audience is very heterogeneous. From freelancers to startups, as well as designers, journalists, architects, consultants, human resources experts, web designers, and translators. Our spaces are also home to various companies of all sizes that use our meeting rooms, auditoriums, and access programs.

Do you have any corporations that also use Urban Station? If so, why do they choose to cowork?

Yes, there are several companies who choose to work with us for different reasons. For example, they use coworking as a way to install part of their teams for special assignments.

Flexibility and economic advantages introduce them to the space and thus they share it with other entrepreneurs who nurture their creativity and spirit by working together. We also have developed different programs for companies on top of our offer of a remote office for their employees

Can you elaborate on the “Your office will follow you” program?

We have changed the paradigm. People spend a significant amount of time in their office, so we are trying to make a more dynamic work environment by creating different spots, kind of like subway stations so that the office can follow you wherever you choose to go. Our business model allows to spontaneous work of meetup area whenever and wherever our corporates clients want it.

You offer transition spaces. Have you ever had cases where a company would rent on a flexible basis and decide to join Urban Station as members?

Yes, it happens often. Many companies come to work on a project, but would prefer to extend, which is not always possible. Thus, enjoy the space, the environment, flexibility and good energy that is generated!

 

“Just like so many other industries, Real Estate will be revolutionized by digital and coworking” – Mischa Schlemmer

Architect and economist, Mischa Schlemmer, was introduced to coworking while she was working on her Masters Degree. The focus of Mischa’s research was economic development of creative clusters at the LSE, which stayed with her as she moved on to ultimately work on building up Google’s Paris office.

Since then, Mischa has become a notable expert on the role of technology in today’s workplace, taking into account the rise of remote workers, globalization and a need for a better work/life balance. Currently, she is focused on helping conscious community leaders attract, engage and maintain optimal creativity and collaboration through emotional intelligence, peak performance and flow state.

Hi, Mischa. Can you please tell us about the role coworking has played throughout your career?

When I was building Google’s office in Paris, I reflected on their approach to building their own private creative cluster, aka Googleplex. Complete with all the perks and amenities to attract, engage and retain the best and brightest “smart creatives” as CEO Erick Schmit calls them, I recognized a lot of similarities between these creative clusters and the overall coworking philosophy and practices. I also noticed that Google was drawing on the same creative engagement and community building approaches that I had originally experienced in my “studio” shared workspace while in architecture school.

I began talking to my real-estate development colleagues and friends about coworking as it became a fast evolving trend, acting as a catalyst for more flexible relationships between office space operators and workers. This led me to become fascinated by the intersection of coworking’s bottom up approach, user generated solutions that compliment and contrast with the corporate top-down model, as well as hybrid models for nurturing creativity and collaboration.

As you are interested in how globalization influences workplaces, what are some of the ways that a global workforce has inspired the future of work movement?

With the introduction of more open communication channels, producers (entrepreneurs) who need support to bring their product or service to market can now easily connect to investors and venture capital who seek to invest their gains back into the market, which is ultimately driving the “start up” business model.

For the global workforce, there is a greater need for emotional intelligence and intercultural awareness, as well as harboring more sensitivity and diplomacy as a way to understand the needs, wants and expectations of diverse consumers, workers, investors, and governments around the world.

How has coworking, as a global movement, influenced real estate?

In regards to commercial office real estate, the relationship between landlords and tenants has changed. The shift towards “startup” business culture means that companies are created to test market demands, and they are subsequently not willing to carry the financial or operational risk as well as the demand for long-term leases.

The financial crisis led to tightening up of overhead budgets across the corporate sector and today an increasing amount of companies are exploring more flexible workspace agreements and provisions for their employees to attract, retain and engage talent/workers. Overall, contemporary businesses need flexibility and outsourced pay-as-you-go services and support.

Mischa Schlemmer

Mischa Schlemmer

The coworking model translated into space as a service model is highly flexible and customizable. In the past, landlords contracted with a company paid the end user to show up every day to occupy the workstation, but now the coworking model is more similar to a hotel where the space operator sells space as a service to end users who have specific expectations and demands. Developers, brokerages, and landlords need to understand this service and ultimately design for and accommodate the expanding diversity of needs and expectations of end users.

What are the challenges that real estate still faces today?

The biggest challenges faced by the real-estate sector today is keeping up and staying ahead of the radical changes that are constantly challenging longstanding expensive and heavily administrative traditional processes associated with the industry. The real estate sector is perhaps the last to be overhauled by the digital revolution due to the scale and permanence of the product. But, real estate will be revolutionized just like so many other industries, from music, health, financial, education, public service, agriculture, etc.

What can more corporate enterprises do to actually make room for innovation? 

Listen! Listen! Listen! Build trusting open engaged communication within their communities and ask the community members (investors, leaders, workers, consumers, partners, etc) what they want and need. Also, make sure to ask exactly how they want to help contribute to the community. Set up clear agreements and buy-in about the vision and value of the community identity or brand. Use internal CRM (contact relationship management) to track and support each community member’s growth and evolution. Empower community members to participate and serve the community in a way that feels generative for them.

What would be the best steps to take to create an original model that actually fits your community?

Make it a priority and co-create a plan that enables regular practice and engagement.

In what ways can corporate companies use coworking values in a genuine way? 

Focus on each community member as a cherished and special talent worth getting to know by unlocking their inner power of networks, creativity, and collaborative synergies.  Create programming and personalized support to help each community member explore the edges of their comfort zone in a safe and supportive environment.  Let go of control and focus on trust and empowerment.

What can the coworking industry do to maintain their values while also benefitting from financial partnerships with corporations? 

Use the emotional intelligence skills of coworking operators to make sure you have connected and clear values while you build a vision of the community identity/ brand. Make sure you also take the time to co-create a mutually beneficial relationship agreement with a practice plan of how to grow the relationship of the partnership.

Finally, how can these workspace models of the future influence the way that we build and organize our cities? (In the way that we promote better living for all)

Workplaces are becoming a place that you choose to go to because it helps you access the full potential of your mind, body, and imagination. This fundamental shift in the way we relate work to salary slavery s towards a more supportive environment that caters to self-actualization of optimized unique individuals will have a profound impact on city design. For example, more specialized neighborhood creative clusters with clear communication of common values and vision to attract like-minded neighbors, and business.

We will see an increase in coworking and coliving models, as well as more organized opportunities to volunteer time and energy towards purposeful service that will be integrated into city life.

“People come to colive for various reasons, but they stay for the community”-Stephanie Cornell, Old Oak Collective

In 2010, Reza Merchant was in his last year of university, having a hard time finding an affordable place to live that wasn’t in shambles. Over the years, Merchant and his team started to see more and more issues within the housing market and a lack of supply for a growing demand.

We caught up with Stephanie from the Old Oak Collective, the latest member to join London’s coliving movement, to learn more about what direction coliving is moving and what this concept will bring to professionals living in urban areas.

Hi Stephanie, Can you please tell us about the Old Oak development process and what we can expect from this coliving concept?

We started to purchase derelict buildings and refurbishing them, which is when The Collective brand was created. We identified a gap in the market for high-quality housing for young professionals, who crave a hassle-free way of living, hence our all-inclusive service offering. For example, a single monthly bill covers rent, council tax, all utility bills, room clean, linen change, 24/7 security, and wi-fi. This convenience element is designed to give time-poor professionals more free time to pursue their passions/hobbies or simply to enjoy some more free time.

During this time we gathered feedback from members and conducted surveys which reinforced what we believed; namely that increasingly our generation are more willing to invest in experiences over material possessions, and to share these experiences with a close community of like-minded individuals.

How did the design play a role in the process?

Refurbishing existing buildings had prevented us from providing the communal space needed to facilitate these shared experiences and interactions, which became a priority when looking for space to build our first purpose built co-living building.

When we bought the site in Old Oak we were excited by the opportunity to deliver a wealth of communal space and amenities, as it is 12,000 sq ft in total!

Can coliving provide a real solution to rising real estate prices in London?

It’s an answer to both the increasing rental prices, which are alienating the workers who are the lifeblood of London’s economy. Coliving is also a solution that could cater to the changing lifestyle trends of our generation, who’s ambitions and expectations are very different to that of previous generations, and to whom the current rental market simply doesn’t cater to.

 How does the Collective Old Oak specifically help to meet contemporary needs?

At The Collective Old Oak we are offering all-inclusive bill and access to various amenities, including a gym, spa, and rooftop terrace. And of course, you are also gaining access to a ready- made community of people in similar stages of their life journey to you, and that’s something you can’t put a price on.You are not just renting a bed or a room; you’re buying into a lifestyle.

What has been the initial response to coliving in your experience?

It’s been so exciting to see them bring the space to life and take ownership of creating the sense of community, alongside our Community Managers.

Community library at Old Oak

Community library at Old Oak

Where there has been the occasional negative comment, it’s inevitably come from people who haven’t visited Old Oak and who don’t understand the concept of co-living.

From your experience, what are people looking for when they decide to colive? 

From what we’ve seen over the past couple of months is that people move in for various different reasons, whether it’s a bad experience renting in a shared apartment, or for the ease of the viewing and booking process for someone coming from abroad. Yet, once people have moved in, the reason they fall in love and ultimately stay, is because of the community.

Do you also offer workspaces such as a coworking area, etc.?

Yes. On the ground floor we have a large hot-desking area, designed to feel like a lounge area, where people can take their laptops, sit in one of the armchairs and work remotely. During the day it will also serve as a coffee shop type environment, transforming into a bar in the evening for more informal meetings or social gatherings.

There is also a separate coworking space on the first floor, which is targeted at local creative and ambitious businesses and entrepreneurs. Again, the same emphasis is placed on community, convenience, and quality, making the space an attractive place to work from a cost perspective, as well as lifestyle.

Have you found that people who chose to stay at Old Oak achieve a sense of work-life balance?

It’s about giving people the choice to work from home if they want to, as the younger generation are moving away from the tradition 9-5 jobs and are able to work from anywhere with a fast internet connection. While a lot of our members will want to go into their offices to get a degree of physical separation between their personal and professional lives, many will enjoy the flexibility of being able to work from home. It is also important to create a variety of inspiring spaces that make room for creativity and productivity, so that when they do choose to work from home, they have enough options so that it doesn’t feel like they are just working from bed.

As we are exploring models of work in the new economy, we would like to hear the opinion/experiences of people who are actively engaging in these models. Would you say that coliving is an obvious transition from more traditional coworking?

I think there are definitely many parallels that can be drawn between the two – as I mentioned earlier the same emphasis on community, convenience and quality is placed on both, to cater to co-livers and coworkers demands. Both have the same start-up, social mentality at their core.

In terms of coliving and coworking do you think the marriage of these two concepts could risk blurring the lines between work/life balance? 

I think that more and more, our generation are pursuing their passions, following their dreams. So actually working long hours and always being “on” isn’t necessarily a chore, but a source of enjoyment and personal satisfaction. Of course, it can be a risk though and it’s incredibly important to strike a healthy balance, which is why our programme of events encourages people to get away from their desks and join a yoga lesson, inspiring talk, film night, book club or the regular free rooftop BBQ and drinks.

How could a coliving space help enable people to really embrace the sharing/new economy, through events, workshops, etc.

We actually have a very active Facebook page for our Old Oak community, which members use for everything from reporting a maintenance issue to sharing events with each other. A common theme that we’ve seen emerging is people using it to share the cost of, for example, buying their groceries. We have one member, Tracy, who regularly cooks amazing meals in large batches, which she then offers to others as dinner portions, at a very low price. It’s a win win for everyone!