Tag: co-working

By Suman Bhattacharyya for DigiDay

Staples no longer wants to be thought of as a place to buy office supplies.

In a brand revamp, Staples this week repositioned itself as “the Worklife Fulfillment Company,” or a place where it says workers can feel happy and productive, reminiscent of WeWork. Staples wouldn’t say if this means it’s going to launch co-working spaces of its own (it ended a co-working trial with startup Workbar earlier this year), but it’s rolling out new private-label technology and office products and yet-to-be-announced business services. It’s also launching a business-focused content-marketing platform called The Loop.

“The focus on Worklife means providing services, products and solutions and an improved digital experience that allows our customers to work wherever, whenever and however they want,” a Staples spokeswoman told Digiday.

Among office supplies companies, a services focus isn’t unique to Staples. Office Depot’s Los Gatos, California location, for example, includes 5,000 square feet of co-working space. Called the Workonomy Hub, it has flexible hot desks, a Starbucks kiosk and a dedicated area for shipping. Any business or worker can sign on for subscriptions or à la carte services.

The pivot to services, including shared-office space, along with agency-style marketing, advertising and other business services, is a way retailers can monetize unused space, generate additional revenue from co-working customers, and build an ongoing relationship beyond one-off interactions or purchases. The co-working market, however, is highly competitive. Beyond industry heavyweights like WeWork and Regis, there are an estimated 200 co-working companies across the U.S. that have at least one location that’s 5,000 square feet, according to real estate company Cushman & Wakefield. Retailers, particularly office-supplies companies, are betting on services and co-working as a means to lock in regular revenue from clients already in their ecosystems.

“We have a very large physical footprint across the country as you can imagine with almost 1,400 locations; we’re always looking for new ways to reimagine how we can get more value out of that square footage,” said Kevin Moffitt, Office Depot’s chief retail officer. “It’s also is a way for us to continue to develop our communities. With our business customers, we have very strong relationships.”

Relationships, in turn, make way for additional service offerings and product purchasing opportunities. It’s a follow-on effect that resulted in increased sales, Office Depot CEO Gerry Smith told investors last November. After opening the initial co-working space and office services center in Los Gatos in August 2018, Office Depot added new locations in Irving, Texas, and Lake Zurich, Illinois. Meanwhile, Staples rolled out a new line of private-label brands associated with its new mission, including office supplies products line Tru Red, Nxt Technologies, a tech product line, CoastWide Professional, a facility supplies brand, and breakroom essentials label Perk.

While the growth of co-working and service arms are natural areas for expansion for office-supplies companies, one disadvantage they may have when compared to pure-play co-working companies is a physical space that looks and feels more boxy and less niche.

“I’m not sure that office supply stores are that attractive as destinations,” said Forrester retail analyst Sucharita Kodali. “Part of the appeal of WeWork is that they are in interesting locations and have attractive layouts that make the space appealing to members.”

Meanwhile, companies that specialize in setting up co-working spaces are seeing increased inquiries from big-box retailers. Industrious, which runs its own co-working spaces and designs them, said it’s seen an increase in the number of big-box retailers that want help redesigning their spaces, and Kettle, a subscription-based service that allows restaurants to be used as co-working spaces, also said it’s also seeing an uptick in interest from retailers.

“It lowers the barriers to entry to allow people to come and stay, they’re surrounded by your branding and it offers opportunities for new customers,” said Kettle co-founder Daniel Rosenzweig.

Compared to co-working companies, office-supplies companies say they’re uniquely positioned to cater to businesses and mobile workers because they offer on-site services on demand which other companies could be challenged to provide at scale.

“You go to other competitors, and they may have a single printer available for 300 folks who are working there, while we have end-to-end marketing services available within a 20-foot walk from your dedicated office, and you can get your laptop fixed right there,” said Moffitt.

Studies show people who work in co-working spaces are on balance more satisfied, better performers and find more meaning in their work than those working in traditional offices.

What’s so special about co-working?

Linda Trim, Director at FutureSpace, says: “Co-working spaces attract diverse groups of people such as entrepreneurs, remote workers, independent professionals and people from large companies who work together in communal setting.

“This seems to be create a special alchemy of contentment.”

Trim cites a study in the Harvard Business Review by researchers Garrett, Bacevice and Spreitzer which found that people working at co-working spaces were not just more satisfied and productive than those in regular offices, but were also much more engaged in shaping their and their company’s future.

“But perhaps the most important factor that the research uncovered was that these people where thriving at work because they saw their work as more meaningful that those in regular offices.”

Why are there such differences?

Firstly, unlike a traditional office, co-working spaces consist of members who work for a range of different companies, ventures, and projects. “Because there is little direct competition or internal politics, they don’t feel they have to put on a work persona to fit in,” Trim noted. “Working amongst people doing different kinds of work can also make one’s own work identity stronger.”

Secondly, meaning may come from working in a culture where it is the norm to help each other out, and there are many opportunities to do so. The variety of workers in the space means that coworkers have unique skill sets that they can provide to other community members.

Meaning may also be derived from the essence of co-working coworking: community, collaboration and learning. “It’s not simply the case that a person is going to work; they’re also part of a global social movement,” Trim added. Co-workers often say that having a community to work in helps them create structures and discipline that motivates them.

Thirdly, they also have more job control. Co-working spaces are normally accessible 24/7. People can decide whether to put in a long day when they have a deadline or want to show progress, or can decide to take a long break in the middle of the day to go to the gym. Said Trim: “They can choose whether they want to work in a quiet space so they can focus, or in a more collaborative space with shared tables where interaction is easier.”

Even though the co-working movement has its origins among freelancers, entrepreneurs, and the tech industry, it’s increasingly relevant for a broader range of people and organisations.

“In fact, co-working can become part of your company’s strategy, and it can help your people and your business thrive. An increasing number of companies are incorporating co-working into their business strategies,” Trim concludes.

Move over co-working: pro-working is here

Think of pro-working as co-working’s mature older sibling – one who is better dressed and much more sophisticated.

Linda Trim, director at FutureSpace, says, “Pro-working is rapidly growing in popularity with professionals and businesses worldwide that want a shared workspace that meets their polished image.”

She adds that pro-working has introduced a new kind of shared work spaced that is more advanced than co-working and which focuses more on services than just the space, much like a five star hotel.

“There is now a clear and growing distinction now between co-working spaces which tend to cater to freelancers, and pro-working offices which offer a more formal, luxurious environment with facilities to match.”

In the past few years, many long-established and professional businesses became conscious of the benefits that sharing a work-space has to offer: reduced cost office space; collaboration; networking; and exchanging skills and knowledge.

“The problem they faced was that many locations on the market just didn’t fit with their identity. They were utilitarian and geared towards freelancers as well as more informal startups and lacked services like the latest technology and formal spaces in which to meet clients.

“They were hip and often grungy and clearly not the best fit for professionals who want their workspace to match their image – and not be distributed by endless games of ping pong,” Trim notes.

But now that companies and consultants operating on a more traditional structure are learning about the benefits of sharing workspace with like-minded businesses, the market is looking to accommodate their needs.
As much as pro-working is a play on co-working, it has evolved from a typical serviced office set up, but with the added element of the best boutique hotel hospitality such as concierge services, personal assistants and access to gyms.

Says Trim: “In addition, the pro-working offering is inspired by the community spirit that co-working has brought to modern office life. Pro-working aims to allow formal businesses to create communities with compatible professionals.

“Co-working made this transition effortless for lone workers and small companies who depended on flexible work options. And now pro-working is doing the same for the professional set.”

Trim also notes that one of the key workplace trends today is to really invest in your people and make sure they are happy and able to produce their best work, which is why the shared market is such a hit the world over.

“Pro-working places are particularly appealing for companies that want to expand because the offices are ‘on-demand’ – there is no need for lengthy procurement processes or FICA (Financial Intelligence Centre Act) requirements,” says Trim. “They also offer extreme flexibility in that the office space is there for as short or long a time as you want it.”

FutureSpace offices in Katherine Street and Rivonia Road in Sandton host many of South Africa’s most successful companies, as well as international start ups that needed to quickly get up and running.

Such is the demand, FutureSpace plans to open several new offices in 2019.

Co-working: the new normal

Co-working spaces, shared office spaces that are typically used by the self-employed or those working for various different companies, are soaring in popularity the world over.

“So much so,” said Linda Trim, Director at workplace design specialists Giant Leap, “that working in a co-working space is rapidly becoming the new normal even for those who have traditional 9 to 5 jobs.”

Trim noted than there are currently 14 411 co-working spaces around the world today making it fastest growing type of commercial property. Globally, shared workspaces have grown at an rapid rate of 200% over the past five years. In global cities like London, New York and Chicago they are expanding at an annual rate of 20%.

“Co-working places are rapidly becoming the workplace of choice. Globally they are expected to be close on 4-million people who will be members of a co-working office by 2020 and that number is expected to rise to over 5-million by 2022.”

Trim added that in South Africa the trend is not as developed as it is in countries like the US, but is quickly catching on. “In major business nodes like Sandton for example, co-working places are springing up all over. For instance FutureSpace is a high end co-working space that is as appealing as WeWork, the hugely successful American co-working company that has offices in 21 countries.”

Co-working became an attractive concept because when it first started to appear, it countered the negative views of the traditional office of drab interiors with tired people spending their lives in cubicles under harsh neon lights.

“If we look back to just a few years ago, co-working was considered to be a movement or a trend, with many believing it would fade. But now co-working is a full-blown industry that is disrupting the real estate industry and the way people work.

They known for offering environments that are conducive to innovation, collaboration, and productivity. These type of workplaces were pioneers in implementing a human approach to design, a trend which is catching up among real estate developers, landlords and of course companies.

“For now co-working is today’s normal.”

The extent to which co-working has gone mainstream is evidenced in the fact that large companies are increasingly seeking to enhance the workplace experience as a means to attract and retain talent, and that a significant percentage of workers who have the option to work from home or a coffee shop prefer to work from a co-working space.

Said Trim: “By 2020, we expect 50% of large companies to have some form of shared office space to offer their workers.”

She also noted that co-working spaces were having a very positive impact on people. 84% of people who use co-working spaces are more engaged and motivated while 89% who co-work report being happier. Owning a coworking space helps to reduce the overall cost as the place is usually on a lease for a certain amount of time. Thus the saved on money can be invested in different aspects of the company.

“The co-working phenomenon has also spurred companies to make their existing offices much more people friendly and relaxed,“ Trim noted.

“On many of our briefs now we are told to design something that makes people feel they are in a relaxed environment somewhere between a coffee bar and their lounge at home.”

She added that the growth in co-working spaces will likely remain strong with a forecasted growth rate of 15% over the next 5 years.

Co-working spaces, the trend that is shaking up the traditional workplace model the world over, is set to cause a dramatic change in how and where people work in South Africa.

Linda Trim, director of FutureSpace – a joint venture between Investec Property and workplace specialists Giant Leap that offers high end co-working space, says that in 2016, there were approximately 11 000 co-working locations around the world.

“But this figure is expected to more than double to 26 000 by 2020. By comparison, there are approximately 24 000 Starbucks locations worldwide. Taking a cue from the popular reference to the coffee giant’s location strategy, that means there may soon be a co-working space on every corner.”

Trim noted that co-working spaces were increasingly popular with strong demand for FutureSpace’s offices.

“We already have steady 80% occupancy rate only three months after launching.”

FutureSpace plans to open further offices around South Africa, a possibly overseas in 2018 such is the demand.

The biggest shift Trim expects to see in the coming years is that co-workspace will become a key component of many companies’ workplace and real estate strategies — for occupiers and building owners alike.

“Flexible workspace is not just for millennial freelancers or tech startups anymore. Large, multinational companies are increasingly taking on space at flexible workspace operators or integrating shared working spaces into their own environments,” she noted.

For example, Microsoft recently shifted 70% of their sales staff in New York City to flexible workspace. Large employers already make up the fastest growing market for shared workspace provider and many businesses’ preferences are moving toward short-term real estate contracts with flexible provisions.

Companies like IBM and Microsoft have begun to outsource the design, building and management of some of their workspaces to third parties.

Says Trim: “In the same way we now purchase many technologies as services rather than as software, the future of ‘space as a service’ looks bright.

“This model provides companies with a way to access space in an on-demand fashion, drawing on the knowledge of outside experts in a way that frees them to focus on their own core businesses.”

Building owners are also finding opportunities to revitalise underused spaces by transforming them into the type of shared work areas that are increasingly in demand.

Already, many occupiers won’t consider a building without available flexible space. To remain relevant, commercial office buildings will need to create spaces that attract people to connect and collaborate — both within the office and outside of it.

In South Africa, as in the rest of the world, companies will soon need to think more about accessing office space than owning or leasing it.

This paradigm shift will require an evaluation of “core” and “flexible” space needs.

Core space is the real estate a company must rent or own over the long term for the business to function. Flexible space is the real estate that can be deployed quickly without long-term commitment, adjusting in near “real time” based on needs.

“By categorising space needs this way, businesses can make better decisions about how to execute a real estate strategy that minimises cost and maximises opportunities,” Trim adds.

One of the best examples of large companies adopting the flexible co-working workspace approach in Asia is HSBC’s recent contract for 400 desks in WeWork’s Tower 535 in Hong Kong.

“It created the right environment for their staff, working in the same location as other like-minded teams, including Hong Kong’s fin techs and other startups,” says Trim.

By making flexible workspace an integral part of an organisation’s workplace strategy, companies can not only provide employees with a valuable opportunity for choice and connectivity, but they can realise meaningful benefits thanks to flexibility.

In balancing core and flexible space needs, companies can reduce financial risks related to long-term space needs and be nimble in making changes as needed.

“Building owners can benefit from transforming underutilised spaces into shared working areas, which in turn can help attract and retain tenants, “ Trim concludes.

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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