From those who choose to co-work when running a remote team, to growing startups and large corporations offering flexibility and autonomy, the spectacular growth of the co-working market seems to know no bounds.
Linda Trim, director at FutureSpace, says that according to a Global Coworking Unconfrence (the largest co-working series in the world) forecast, by 2022 there will be 30 432 spaces and 5.1 million paid co-working members worldwide.
Says Trim: “The market shows an average annual growth rate of 24.2 percent since 2007, and is less a way of working now than a way of life.”
So, what’s behind the explosion, and what does it mean for South Africa?
“The are so many benefits to coworking,” notes Trim. As demands on workplace flexibility increase, corporations are turning to coworking to solve the problem of rising commercial space costs while staying agile.”
She added shared workspaces are an energising, open and supportive environment for those who are not ready for their own office or enjoy the flux and energy of shared space. “It is precisely this flexibility that is so attractive for small businesses and entrepreneurs as they build. For startups, the coworking solution ticks all the boxes of flexible, affordable space, and a creative hub to foster new ideas and new business.”
The self-employed knowledge worker sector is growing too, bringing with it the need for hubs to provide social interaction, alternative locations than the cramped office desk or coffee shop, and clusters of interaction for connectivity.
So, if this market continues to grow and thrive as all the signs indicate, what is the impact on innovation?
For innovation to be successful, the ability to bounce ideas and to foster a culture of creativity is only part of the picture.
“Collaboration is also crucial to innovation, and it’s precisely this element that coworking provides,” says Trim. “The need to build links has always been a key part of business, but open innovation speeds up development. This means networking with people both inside and outside of your organisation, making coworking a powerful catalyst.”
Creating an incubator culture through coworking also has an impact on the speed of growth and success rate of startups. Coworking members grow through collaboration with the space operator where opportunities allow. This gives startups the chance to showcase their businesses to a wider audience that they may not otherwise have had access to.
“Startups fail slowly when they’re alone and can’t get impartial feedback. They fail fast when they have access to objective, well-intentioned feedback from fellow coworkers,” Trim adds.
“A high quality shared office provider will recognise your business model and growth ambitions and offer a rich and compelling program of networking events.”
By creating introductions and helping to build networks, entrepreneurs have more time to focus on innovation which is often the motivation to run their own businesses in the first place.
“As the coworking model continues to grow and diversify in South Africa, we can expect to see more opportunities and models for startup open culture innovation around the country,” Trim concludes.