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.
The pod — a small, free-standing box or space that is typically soundproof and designed to fit just one or two people — is taking over offices in South Africa according one of the country’s biggest office space and furniture consultancies.
And there is good reason for the rise in its popularity.
Isla Galloway-Gaul, MD of Inspiration Office, says: “Privacy pods that allow you to meet or talk on the phone without others overhearing, or work in complete silence, have been installed in many offices ranging from start ups to large companies with thousands of employees.
“We have experienced rising demand for pods over the past few years and expect them to become increasingly popular in offices in South Africa.”
One of the biggest reasons for companies installing pods in their public spaces is people’s need for silence and privacy.
“We all need periods of silence, especially at work,” says Galloway-Gaul. “Working and commuting in busy urban environments is putting a lot of noise and busyness pressure on our lifestyles.”
People around the world tend to spend increasing numbers of hours at work compared to decades past, and because of the rise of open plan offices we need the option to go somewhere quiet and carry on working.
“While many people like open plan offices, others find in makes for a more difficult work environment by creating more stress, reducing productivity and lowering job satisfaction. Most people struggle with concentration anyway, even without interruptions and elevated noise levels,” she adds.
Privacy pods are an ideal solution and easily installed.
“They do away with the need to build entirely new private rooms, can be added and removed according to need and as they are small, can be slotted in without making much change to the overall offices space or aesthetic. They are also much more cost effective and far less disruptive than making wholesale changes to an office,” says Galloway-Gaul. “Companies can still have uncluttered open offices and accommodate those who need quiet.”
Another reason behind the rise of the pod?
“An increased focus on wellness,” says Galloway-Gaul. “There are a lot of introverts in the world that need a place to go to think and recharge,” she says. “And even those who aren’t, may want a few moments of peace every so often.”
Productivity is another factor.
Pods make it more convenient for people to work more, thereby increasing productivity. Productivity in the workplace is vital to support an efficient business and enhance the bottom line, but it is apparent that a lot of employees feel that they are sometimes restricted by the environment around them.
Says Galloway-Gaul: “Organisations must create as much choice as possible to enable employees to vary noise levels to meet their needs depending on what they’re working on.
“There is a growing demand for pods around the world. It’s a growth area and one that could be a disrupter to how companies plan their spaces.”
Yet another struggling retailer is trying to shore up foot traffic with a unique in-store experience. Staples is offering customers cooperative working spaces and is finding some success with the endeavor.
Staples’ new offering, called Workbar, resembles a tech-heavy upstart in the wake of WeWork’s success in office space sharing. Seven-year-old WeWork’s valuation has skyrocketed to an estimated $20 billion recently after it secured some $300 million in investments from SoftBank Group Corp. (See also: Behind WeWork’s Billion Dollar Valuation.)
The Framingham, Mass.-based Staples is banking on a hip vibe at Workbar – with young workers at their laptops sipping gourmet coffee amid funky art – to offset soft demand and revive its brand. At its first co-working space in Boston, where Staples opened its first location in September, there’s a putting green, skylights and happy hours.
“If you go to most people on the street and ask about Staples they’d go, ‘Oh yeah, the office-products superstore,’” Staples’ new CEO Shira Goodman told Bloomberg. “But the reality is that’s very far from where we are today, and even farther from where we want to be.” Goodman said she expects Staples’ online sales to be 80% of the retailer’s overall sales by 2020.
Staples, with $18 billion in annual revenue after years of declines, recently said it plans to close 70 stores in the U.S. and Canada to reduce costs amid declining sales. Fourth-quarter sales fell 7% from the year prior.
The company closed 13 stores during the quarter and ended the year with 1,255 stores in the U.S. and 304 stores in Canada.
The office supply retailer is also planning to launch a new marketing campaign that will underscore its role as a partner to businesses, including with its co-working space. Monthly memberships to Workbar cost $130. More than 200 people have signed on since its debut in September.
Staples stock is down 23.3% the past year, and down 6% year to date. Staples tried to buy Office Depot in 2015, but that proposal was not approved by regulators.
By Rebecca McClay for www.investopedia.com
Despite the well worn office mantra of group work being central to success, businesses often struggle to offer effective collaborative spaces. This is according to Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy.
Says Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office: “Historically, most collaboration in South Africa has occurred through formal, scheduled meetings having many participants.
“As a result, organisations have had years of experience building conference rooms and other formal meeting spaces. These spaces were designed to facilitate large group work processes, efficient client exchanges of information and decision making.”
Andrews notes that the need for innovation, improved productivity and particularly speedy decision making are the principal drivers behind the charge towards collaborative, less structured workspaces.
“This is especially true when you consider 70% of great, innovative ideas at work come from people collaborating,” he says. “The search for competitive advantage through innovation and effective decision-making has led many organisations to highly value group-oriented work and workspaces.”
Today’s collaborative spaces fall short of expectations, driven by a lack of spaces to support the most valued types of collaboration, and a lack of adaptability of both furnishings and technology within the spaces.
“While the most highly prized collaborations are informal in nature, they need to be supported with the right design characteristics such as convenient location, support for social and small group work interactions, and casual look and feel.”
Most organisations consider the social component of work separate from “work” spaces. To foster social interaction, some copy the obvious characteristics of successful public spaces (the café, bar, market, lounge) mistakenly hoping that the variety of social interactions occurring in the public versions of these spaces will translate to a business setting.
However, organisations have few insights into supporting innovation other than to encourage as much interaction as possible and “wait for the magic to happen”. Organisations know their group spaces are under-performing, but do not know how to respond.
Andrews says that while the trend to establish comfortable, informal collaborative spaces within offices has taken hold in Europe and particularly in the US over the past few years, and to some degree in South Africa, he expects the trend to accelerate here in 2017.
“The economy is sluggish and adding a collaborative space in an unused office area means you can enhance office facilities without taking on extra spaces and bumping up the rent or spending a lot on expensive office reconfiguration.
“Another advantage is because these spaces typically consist of things like screened off areas, perch tables with high stools, booths with comfortable ottomans and chairs, they are easy to move to a new office.”
Andrews says that the types of collaborative spaces offered continue to evolve- the most rapidly growing categories support brainstorming, small unplanned meetings, videoconferencing and project team work.
“In the future, most collaborative spaces will offer features that facilitate connection to technology, sharing of visual information, adaptability to changing work process and amenities such as food, beverages and daylight,” he concludes.
Staples has announced a new way to make better use of its cavernous stores at a time of shrinking shopper traffic: turning some of that square-footage into office space.
The office supplies giant said that it was collaborating with office-sharing startup Workbar to open communal workspace at three of its stores in metro Boston in a pilot. Workbar runs a network of locations with desks and conference rooms that subscribers can use for a monthly fee.
Each of the 2 500 to 3 500 square-foot Workbar facilities will have workspaces, conference rooms, private phone rooms, and wifi access. The average US Staples location is 20 000 square feet in size.
The move is just the latest by big box retailers looking to find new uses for all their store space at a time more shopping is moving online.
For instance, Macy’s has shops run by sports apparel retailer Finish Line and is testing out a similar idea with electronics retailer Best Buy. Sears has rented out parts of stores to everyone from Whole Foods Market to Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Staples is struggling with a declining retail business. It said last month it would close 50 of its 1,607 North American stores this year, after shutting 242 others in the two previous years. Staples is also trying to convince the government to let it buy Office Depot to fend off growing competition in the office supplies area from Amazon.com.
It recently re-named its business services division Staples Business Advantage from Staples Advantage to prop up that part of its business, which in contrast to the retail division, is growing.
Business services now generate 40% of company sales, compared to 35% in 2013. What’s more, Staples’ North American B2B unit is far more profitable and looks set to surpass the retail division in the next year or two.
Many of Staples’ stores have much more space than they need, now that people are buying more and more office items online.
By Phil Wahba for www.fortune.com