Category: Digital freelancers

Coworking to change the work culture in Japan

Takayuki Hagihara is one of the well-known faces within the coworking global scene. Tokyo based Takayuki travelled the world visiting dozens of coworking spaces and building up a limitless knowledge of the multi-diverse way the coworking model is implemented on the five continents. ULSLab’s (Ubiquitous Lifestyle Laboratory, his company) mission is “the realization of a society where everyone can cooperate without being tied to a location”.

Hello Takayuki. Can you introduce yourself and your activities ?

After a long career as an engineer, I decided to start my own company. As many in my situation, I started to visit some of the shared offices in Tokyo. During my investigations, I entered a bunch of coworking spaces. It appeared to me that coworking, as a working place, could become a very promising alternative to traditional workplaces. I met many attractive operators, such as Kyo, from PAX Coworking, the founder of one of the first coworking spaces to have opened in Japan. I figured out that the Coworking model was about something much stronger than just the “work environment”. As of today, we provide professional services both for service provider side and enterprise side on work style change management.

How is the situation of coworking in Japan in 2017 ? 

According to a 2016 research on service providers for telework which was conducted by the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, 1.987 flexible workplaces are active in Japan, claiming to be coworking spaces. Some are business centers. Based on the survey, we can say that 65.3% are operated by private organizations. About one third is profitable. The survey doesn’t make a clear distinction between the different offerings, though.

Do you see some specific drivers in Japan as opposed to other coworking offerings you have seen around the world ?

I do not see any significant differences between Japanese coworking spaces and European, Asian and US spaces I visited. I can find a foreign counterpart for any to Japanese coworking space I know. Each space differentiates itself from the others. That said, yes, at a smaller level, there are maybe some characteristics specific to Japan. For instance, kitchen and dining areas are relatively seldom in Japan, if I compare it to what I have visited in the US, Europe or the rest of Asia.

What about the profile of the tenants : freelancers, expats, startups, employees from private or public organizations ?

Freelancers and small startups are quite common. Accountant and independent consultants sometimes. Small businesses launched by retired people is something more unique in  Japan. We see them in some coworking spaces. Large enterprises also start to let their employees to work from shared offices and coworking spaces. On July 24th (2017), the government launched what they called ‘Telework day’. According to a report, more than 60,000 employees worked at home or from third workplaces, different from the company’ offices.

How important is it to build up a community feeling in coworking spaces in Japan (with events, happy hours, a celebration of people’ birthday, etc.) ?

It really depends on the space. Some operators I met are keen to organize lunches or coffee breaks in order to trigger new conversations, good to establish relationships. However, some (young female, for instance) attendees do not want to join drinking events. The community manager is critical to overcoming these barriers.

Just recently, WeWork announced a $300 Mio deal with SoftBank in order to open 40 spaces in Japan. What does the deal tell about the evolution of coworking in Japan? 

SoftBank isn’t the only one. There are many investments in the shared workplace business. Large real estate companies started branded spaces. Some company started more than one brand – focusing enterprise use, Tokyo branch use, coworking, innovation hubs, …

What about the role of independent operators ? Is the coworking market mainly in the hands of big brands, such as what we see in some other Asian countries ?

Independent operators are still vital and sometimes belong alliance programs provided by large brands. For example, Tokyu Corporation – one of the top private railway in the metropolitan area which also has real estate business subsidiary – started the brand NewWork currently focusing on enterprise employee hot desks near its railway stations has contracted with more than 10 independent coworking spaces as well as their own spaces.

How ready is the commercial real market to embrace coworking in Japan, would you say ?

Traditional property owners like to stay good old leasing model. There is a huge development in Tokyo area for high-end property and it makes an existing property to be rated as 2nd class. So, some owners decided the new coworking model to survive.

“Coworking can help emerging countries to diversify their economy” – The Address (Algiers)

Marouan Aoudia is an Algerian national, born and educated in the US. During 10 years, he worked in the corporate world before shifting towards the entrepreneurial world, end of 2015, armed with a long list of projects among which to open a coworking space in Algeria : The Address.

Hello Marouan. Could you introduce yourself as well as The Address project?

I was introduced to coworking for the first time on April 2015 during a visit to the US, and I immediately thought about seeing this concept into Algeria.  Along with my strategic partners Majda and Chouaib, we worked on the concept, activities, and the general branding of the space.  The Address was born on Feb 2016 as the 1st coworking space in the country.  It is located in the capital, Algiers, and in area that has multiple options of public transportation for ease of reach.  The Address is approximately 250 m2 big in surface.  Our vision is to create an environment that embraces the notion of connection, collaboration, and creation among the members. We welcomed members from diverse sectors and backgrounds, some just starting out in their entrepreneurial journey and others are established professionals that require a work space while in Algiers.  This mix of backgrounds and experience level is what makes The Address a unique space I believe.

What are the reasons Coworking can thrive in Algeria, according to you?

As for any service proposition, to be successful, it needs first and foremost to solve a real problem that exists. Coworking solves an issue that many entrepreneurs and independent professionals are facing in Algeria : the lack of affordable space where they can work, a place to receive potential clients, an opportunity to connect and network with peers, ability to establish their commercial license without important capital requirements. Coworking put simply tackled all these problematic and it allowed many people to take their 1st step towards establishing their projects with just a small capital, establish a commercial license and be connected with fellow members as support system.

According to you, coworking can help emerging countries such as Algeria to diversify their economy. Can you elaborate ?

Marouane Aoudia

Currently Algeria is tapping into its foreign reserves just to maintain economic stability after witnessing the massive drop in oil prices, a resource that historically served as the main economic contributor.  Faced with the situation on hand, we have no choice but to diversity and develop other sectors of the economy.  As previously stated, Coworking in Algeria plays an important role in creating an environment that supports the development of a startup scene and the entrepreneurial landscape in general.  We are seeing a new stream of startups being founded at Coworking spaces that eventually graduate to standalone businesses as they scale up their operations. The numbers are out there, in many economies around the world SMEs contributes the heavily in to nation’s GDP figures and employment sector.  Again, Coworking is the 1st step towards that journey, the starting point in a chain of business development that will see a small startup become an valuable economic contributor.     

Coworking is the 1st step towards that journey, the starting point in a chain of business development that will see a small startup become an valuable economic contributor.

Coworking communities can become connection hubs between entrepreneurs from emerging and developed economies. How can we achieve that better?

Definitely, coworking spaces from across regions and continents once connected can serve as the ambassador’s of the world in their respective countries.  Once this has been achieved, we can start working on an array of projects whether its digital in nature or anything else that is both relevant and of added value.  Coworking owners have the capacity to engage the members, influencers, and local community towards a common initiative.  It is worth noting that idea aside the most challenging part in these sorts of grand scale initiatives is the quality of execution and sustainability. On the profitability side, Coworking spaces can again collectively seek funding from international organizations in return of the value that these projects can bring home.

What can we say about the Algerian digital ecosystem and how coworking can help?

The digital ecosystem in Algeria is lagging behind even when looking at it from the perspective of North Africa region.  It is hindered by two main issues, the low speed and at times unreliable internet connection and the lack of structured e-payment system.  So we have an infrastructure issue more than anything. 

There is a lot of interest among youth for everything related to digital world and Coworking spaces are serving as platforms connecting the community members by organizing seminars, events (SW: cfr Algeria Startup Altitude, for instance), workshops, and trainings related to it.   As the infrastructural issues are resolved, Coworking will be playing more of an active role in initiating   

Does the coworking working model speaks also to SME’s or bigger companies, or is too early in the country?

At The Address we already have a number of SME clients.  These are clients where the HQ are based outside of Algiers but still have strong client base in the city.  We offer them special corporate packages that would allow them the use the space when visiting and more importantly we offered them virtual office service by serving their client base administratively on commercial transactions.   We also host corporate evening events at the space for themes that speaks to youth and entrepreneurship.

The Address is settled in a “Commercial Centre”. Why is this location appropriate for a coworking space would you say ?

We are located in hybrid building that has a mall, commercial offices, governmental agencies, and residential studios.  The center offers many advantages.  First, the center has 1000 free parking spaces, a luxury that you will not find elsewhere in the city where parking is a major issue.  Second, the center offer security 24/7 allowing us the run evening events without any fear for safety.  Third, our clients and Coworking members appreciate the services that the commercial center has to offer in terms of food court, catering, dry cleaner, gym, among other things that makes life just a bit easier.

In Europe or in the US, we hear more and more about “dying” shopping malls. Can coworking save “commercial centres” ?

A dying garden needs to be rejuvenated.  The way to do it is to remove the dead plants and inject new seeds that can break ground and foster.  Dying infrastructure is no different; if malls are dying they can be converted to a mix of commercial offices, innovation hubs, art galleries,…the economic cycle will always see concepts that will seize to exit in the expense of new fresh initiatives, our role is to adjust accordingly.       

What are your main challenges and hopes?

As a Coworking space owner the challenge is to continue to promote the concept and build awareness, get better traction and create greater demand to sustain operations.  A year and half into our existence, we have taken great strides towards that goal and have adopted well to meet the demand of our community and corporate clients.

At a macro level, I hope we will see more initiatives in Algeria from private sector that goes towards the development of our young human resources.  Emerging countries have abundance of talented youth that are never given the proper mentoring, resources, and opportunity to excel.  More often than not, they opt to travel to Europe, US, and there they develop into influential figures and contributors to their adopted nation.  We need start to start paving a road for their success while they are here.     

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

How to measure coworking business performances

At the most recent Coworking Europe conference, which took place in Brussels in November of last year, Anil George, Head of Operations at 91Springboard, India’s largest Coworking network, facilitated a masterclass on how Coworking spaces measure their business performance.

Here is a sum up of the workshop.

1. Determine the right metrics and indicators

Coworking spaces, like any other businesses, need to measure and quantify performance progress based on defined targets and goals based on various activities. One must consider KPIs (Key Performing Indicators) specific to running a coworking space.

Those metrics will have to be customized according to each activity related to the coworking operations.
We also need to ensure that KPIs are readable, as well as standardized and automated so that everyone can clearly understand these changes.

But first, let’s make sure we first have paid attention on the following things  :

  • Frequency of the action which is measured (daily, monthly, quarterly, etc)
  • Unit used (numbers, currency %, etc)
  • Source (such as sales CRM, or a software management tool like Essensys)
  • Checklist, dashboard, etc; the audience (team or organisation)
  • Target; and how we represent and interpret the final result.

2. Measure the coworking business performances

During the devising metrics masterclass of 91Springboard in Brussels, the participating group worked as one Coworking Space provider with multiple departments and arrived at different conclusions based on various metrics.
Key indicators were used as a way to measure activity in their departments and improve overall performance.

Here are three fields of measurement we can elaborate on : Operational performance, Business performance and Community performance. 

A. Operational Performance

We refer to those items around the regular day-to-day running of the coworking space : efficiency, smooth processes that continually improve with the help of reviewing relevant data…

Take the example of bandwidth management. What can be done to measure patterns of consumption ?

Example :

  • Create utilisation patterns across the day for different types of users
  • Do the same by weeks
  • Introduce a metric to understand the bandwidth consumption during events
  • Etc.

By groing through this, we will able to cater the best possible solutions for upgrades, downgrades and improved infrastructure (access points, router etc) as a whole.

Another example, more focused on qualitative inputs, is : “Good Resolution” by the team running the place.

This can be measured in terms of the number of support tickets for problem-solving, resolution time to close, the sentiment of members after closure and so on.

The overall idea of these operational metrics is to improve the running of the space by going deeper into each one of these elements.

B. Business Performance

The space and its business models must make unit economics sense, for sustainability and scale.

First and foremost, one needs to design the right metrics to provide with the right assessment. Thos metrics might be :

  • Revenue per square meter
  • Revenue per member
  • Revenue per workstation
  • Sales conversion ratios
  • Cost per lead
  • More

It speaks for itself that those are various measures to be reviewed on daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly bais would one want to learn from what’s happening with respect to the business performance, and how he/she stands against our predictions/forecast. 

So many proxy metrics of capacity utilization, occupancy, churn serve as second-level/dive-deeper metrics that links back to the root metrics of revenues and expenses.

C. Community Performance

Community is a core element of the why we all love coworking. The idea of creating unique communities that are defined and created by the members for members, which is facilitated by the space providers.

We can improve and measure the internal community dynamic, the external community dynamic, as well as the level of performance regarding events management.  

Here are some quantitative and qualitative metrics that can be used to assess the level of engagement of a coworking community:

  • Surveys, to deem members’ satisfaction
  • Synergies and collaborative projects between members
  • Connections and friendships
  • Success stories
  • Event attendance
  • Quality of event feedbacks
  • Event attendance patterns
  • Etc

Understanding values, beliefs, character, and goals of the space, metrics, which vary from one space to another.

Tracking metrics in a systematic way will develop unique insights, which will make room for new metrics to evolve.

Overall, it will help to draft strategic goals, which can be broken down into more metrics that will answer questions related to personal needs.

Perfect metrics do not exist. However, based on his/her experiences and goals, space managers will find the best metrics that work for them.

Download 91Springboard Metrics presentation :

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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

“70% of employees would quit their current position for more flexible work arrangements”-Sam Rosen, Deskpass

Deskpass was born from the experiences of the founders of The Coop, a dedicated coworking space in Chicago. While all coworkers can appreciate the benefits of having a dedicated community, the growing freelancer economy demands variety and access to a range of communities and spaces. This is where Deskpass comes in. Founding member Sam Rosen, who also worked on Desktime, a software used for booking and managing spaces, based on work at The Coop, aims to bring the coworking world easy access to a global network of spaces.

Currently, Deskpass’s flexible membership allows the platform to partner with spaces and offer coworkers a monthly package in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Denver to give you access to all of them. There are also several plan options for people who want to cowork someplace new every day or just a few times a month. We spoke with Sam about the platform and why coworking memberships will be an integral part of the future workplace.

Hi, Sam. How long have you been operating and from your experience what have been some of the common threads that you’ve seen regarding worker’s needs? 

Deskpass has been in operation a little over a year and a half. In that time, we’ve found that most of our users primarily work from home, and like it!. Instead of replacing their home office, they are looking for a place to go once or twice a week. They either want a creative boost, a place to meet clients or a work base close to other things happening in their lives. While traditionally folks who use coworking spaces value location and community, Deskpass users also value flexibility and access to lots of spaces.

As coworking has become more popularized in recent years, it has attracted more traditional workers, and corporations. Do you see a lot of corporate players who are interested in programs like Deskpass?

It’s important for those of us who work in coworking to remember that it is still a new idea and that a vast majority of people may have never heard of it before. We’re seeing more and more mobile and remote workers across industries. Pair that with companies starting to adopt alternative workplace strategies, and innovative options like Deskpass become more and more compelling.

Sam Rosen

Sam Rosen

For example, suburban companies want flexible options downtown for talent recruitment and retention. Forbes tells us at least 70% of employees would quit their current position for more flexible work arrangements. One study from GWA showed 95% of employers say remote work has a high impact on employee retention & 36% of employees would choose it over a pay raise.

Businesses that want to compete for the best people need to keep those things in mind but also don’t want to rent offices all over the place.

What are some of the experiences that you’ve had with more traditional workers that have signed up for Deskpass? 

Most of our folks use Deskpass to augment an existing setup. They like working from home, or from the office most of the time, and Deskpass serves as an attractive alternative a few times a month. Maybe they need to travel for work or they just want to get out of the house. Again, for many people, coworking is still a new concept. We find that a lot of folks are trying coworking for the first time and come to wonder how they have worked so long without it.

On that same note, would you say most of your users are full-time freelancers and part-time remote workers who are able to leave the office from time to time?

We’re pretty evenly split between freelancers and remote workers. We definitely expected to be more freelancer-based when we launched and have been excited to see the benefits membership offers remote workers.

As Deskpass encourages flexible use of space, what is your take on the future of real estate in the workplace? 

There’s little doubt in my mind we are in a transformative moment for our concepts of the office. For the first time ever, “work” doesn’t have to both be a thing we do and the place we do it.

We’re going to see more variance in and more kinds of ecosystems for work. I imagine folks will still have a traditional office available to them but will be equally empowered to work from home. This could be done from wherever it is that’s going to allow them to get the most work done, be more focused and have a better quality of life. An ideal environment might change based on the personality type and the job. Furthermore, my ideal environment might change based on what specific project I am working on or what my schedule feels like for the week.

Overall, we’re going to see more hybrids with less dedicated space and more awesome thoughtful drop-in environments supported by better and better technology.

CHECK OUT SOCIALWORKPLACES.COM UPCOMING EVENTS

 

Coworking in Japan is still in its nascent stages, we hope Startup Retreat Japan can help popularize the movement.

Daniel Klose was working as a project manager in Berlin, enjoying the vibrant startup scene, but looking to get outside of the city. Having always dreamt of working remotely, but not willing to commute on a daily basis, he decided to change things up in a big way. He and his wife packed up their things and moved to Japan and open a Café in the countryside. Combining the café and web development they got settled in Setouchi-Shi, Okayama. Today, Daniel is working on brining coworking retreats to Japan, though Startup Retreat Japan and navigating the startup scene one day at a time.

Hi, Daniel. Can you please tell us a bit about how you established Startup Retreat Japan? 

Daniel Klose

Daniel Klose

I was still following the startup scene and tried to get involved as much as possible with tech expats in Japan. I quickly realized that for some reason this is a huge correlation between tech company employees and their interest in the Japanese culture.

At the same time I saw the potential for growth in my area as it used to be a touristic resort area during the Japanese assets bubble. So you the environment was in place, but there was no one around anymore to populate it. So my co-founder Aimable and I decided to just give it a try.

What was the coworking scene like in Japan when you first started Startup retreat? 

Startup Retreat Japan is still in its beginnings at the moment. We are currently evaluating some potential clients but have not yet had any bookings in place. In general coworking spaces in Japan are not much of a thing.

Freelancing in japan is still pretty much ten years behind the rest of the world and is considered “unprofessional” I suppose. The city of Okayama has 2 coworking spaces, but they seem to be mostly used by sales people for companies. Also, I have yet to meet any developers there.

Is the concept of work in Japan still traditional? 

I would say that South East Asia is especially popular due to its nice weather and more importantly cheap cost of living. Japan is not necessarily known for neither, especially not cheap cost of living! Whilst the tourism sector in Japan is seeing the strongest growth in all of Asia, it is still well behind the tourist hotspots like Thailand, or Vietnam. Also, tourism in Japan is largely dominated by South Korean and Chinese tourists. I saw some numbers showing that these groups make up about 75% of all the tourists at the moment.

How have people responded to the overall movement in comparison to coworking in other Asian countries ?

I believe the concept of co-working can not at all be applied to Japan as it is seen as in for example Thailand. We were discussing our project with the tourism department of our town and they weren’t even aware of the concept of remote work and especially not work retreats. It is important to understand that we only market our services to foreign companies because of this. Whilst it would be easier for Japanese companies to use our services I think there is far more potential in targeting modern businesses.

You are based in Okayama. As it is a relatively rural area, was it difficult to get the project off the ground? 

Startup Retreat Japan, Okayama

Startup Retreat Japan, Okayama

To be honest, it was surprisingly easy. As mentioned above the area used to be a Japan tourism hot spot in the 80s and 90s. Nowadays almost all the space run under capacity and they are desperately looking for ways to improve their situation. The city was very cooperative too.

What are the benefits of offering a program to coworkers in a more natural setting?

I believe the most important aspect for any business is to get things done and ship. There are usually two types of work retreats nowadays. Team building retreats and the ones where a team should actually work. We try to market our space towards the second one. Getting things done in a beautiful environment, without distraction. This is also why we offer a complete package experience, which includes airport pickups/drop-offs. We also offer a concierge service, meal delivery and transport to restaurants, activities, etc. Basically we keep all the noise away and make sure that you can reach that milestone.

What types of members do you usually attract? Are you focused more on nomadic workers, or are you more focused on the local community?

As mentioned earlier we are mostly looking abroad. There seems to be a great affection for Japan and their culture in the tech economy especially in NA and Europe. I would be happy to welcome Japanese firms in the future but I believe we have to wait a few more years before work retreats becoming a thing here.

What are some of the unique qualities of coworking in Japan that might interest coworkers who travel frequently?

I believe one of the biggest advantages that Japan has to offer for digital nomads is their broadband connectivity. Countryside town cafe surrounded by farms, with 1gbps up and downstream fiber, you find it here. Besides Korea, Japan is probably one of the only places in the world that opens the digital nomad door for people who have to handle a lot of data to make a living e.g. video editors and such. Other than that, I believe Japan is still a place that is relatively untouched by Western cultures, so you experience these “wow” moments quite often.

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.

“Barely a day goes by where I am not visiting a coworking space”-Joe Griston

After many years of working around the world, Joe Griston joined freelancer.com as the Director of People & Talent. For the last 3 and a half years, Joe has been responsible for all HR and Recruitment operations globally at one of the biggest job finding portals for freelancers. In this time, Freelancer.com has grown to have 500 staff in 7 offices across the globe.

After moving back to his hometown of London earlier this year, Joe is now focusing on the growing user numbers and operations in Europe. We spoke with Joe about how freelancer.com is changing the way freelancers find work, but also about how these digital platforms will greatly contribute to overall innovation and growth in Europe’s professional landscape.

Hi, Joe. Many freelancers today use online platforms to find work. Since there are so many out there, how does Feelancer.com provide results and also protection for independent workers?

Our freelancer profile pages act as an effective CV, but one that provides thorough and detailed metrics to promote the freelancer’s skills, abilities and past successes to potential employers. Traditionally, a freelancer’s CV will say they are ‘hard working’, ‘dynamic’ and ‘good at solving problems’, but these words actually prove nothing. But, our metrics do. It is up to the freelancer to make sure these metrics are as strong as possible, which in turn allows for greater results in being hired.

We also have similar metrics for employers, ensuring security in every way possible. Our desktop app tracks hours worked and we also recommend using our Milestone Payment System, which gives payments to freelancers throughout their work rather than just upon completion of the project.

You are based in London. Why do you think that the freelance community in London is not only growing but also thriving when compared to less successful communities around Europe?

The gig economy is upon us and England and London are very expensive places to live. However, average salaries in these areas have not increased in the same way rent and living costs have. Therefore, we have a number of freelancers also in full-time employment who earn money to supplement their existing income. We also have a number of freelancers who started this way and quickly realised that they can earn more money than provided by their regular traditional employment. They also saw that earning money in this way and being your own boss was a far better lifestyle for them when compared to the 9-5 grind.

This is one of many reasons why London and the UK and growing in numbers, however, I do not think there are any unsuccessful freelancer communities in Europe. This is a solution for everyone and growing in all regions. We facilitate the connection to employers from all over the planet, this greater choice of work benefits everyone.

Do you believe freelancers need a community, like a coworking space, to help them grow? 

It depends on the freelancer. We have many who are working remotely, with the likes of companies like Udacity, etc. Thus the wealth of the world’s knowledge is now online, allowing anyone to learn and up-skill themselves. Their social situation or cultural background may prohibit any other form of work. However, teams of freelancers can be very happy physically working together and that is why coworking spaces are now all over every major city around the world.

Joe Griston- freelancers

Joe Griston

Also, many communities in London support themselves, not only in working together but in how to grow a successful business and then become employers of freelancers themselves. Barely a day goes by where I am not visiting a coworking space and the communities here are very supportive to one another. The choice of how to work has never been greater. Studies vary, most claim 50% of all workers should be completing some form of freelance work by 2020.

What does this mean for the future of work?

It means that platforms like freelancer.com are the future of work. How do you get a job by sending in a text CV that sits in a pile of 300 other CV’s on someone’s desk? Trying to get a job in a big corporation in a big city is far harder than trying to get a job on freelancer.com. Technology allows us to work together in a far greater capacity than ever before.

Do you believe that an increase in freelance workers overall is better for innovation and professional progress? If so, why?

Yes. Imagine that you are a small business and you would like a logo designed. Do you employ a full-time graphic designer permanently that you can’t really afford? Do you allow yourself to be pitched by a design agency for enormous amounts of money? No, it would be better for you to  post a contest on freelancer.com and have greater choice and knowledge about with who and how you want to collaborate. Working together with freelancers in this way allows business to grow and makes room for greater flexibility on how to spend your revenue.

Also, we have seen a number of businesses now totally operate on freelancer.com. The product is designed, the website created, the SEO and sales all arranged and completed online. The only limit to work in this way is your imagination. You mentioned professional progress, and this is an example of how to help both the employer and freelancer to work in a far greater capacity. To illustrate the scale of working successfully, we, for example, partner with NASA, who use us to aid in space exploration. So, freelance platforms are not just for low-paying small job. High quality and well-paying work is everywhere. This is the absolute future of work.