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The Coworking Effect

14
Oct
2016
Anne-Kathrine Utzon
As companies move away from cubicles and towards cortados, the phenomenon of coworking is changing productivity in the workplace.

Thomas Fokdal

This problem of the human site or living space is not simply that of knowing whether there will be enough space for men in the world, but also that of knowing...what type of storage, circulation, marking, and classification of human elements should be adopted in a given situation in order to achieve a given end. - Michel Foucault, Of Other Spaces

As workplace trends go, coworking is an unusual one. On the face of it, it might appear that it hinges on workers spending less time at their desks in focussed work time - something to which traditionalists will remain staunchly opposed. In action, it has shaped the way that offices look and feel, texturing conventional desk spaces with lounges, espresso bars and beanbags.

 But as Thomas Fokdal, owner of Copenhagen Windows and real estate expert suggests, "coworking is more of a mental concept than an actual physical office solution". It is not just an attempt to make workers feel trendier and more comfortable at work, it has positive and tangible effects on productivity and revenue. 

Coworking, for Fokdal, is a "mode", a way of thinking for office workers which transcends the individuality of cubicle-style offices and stimulates collaboration and the cross-fertilisation of ideas. 

Space and time

The space we find ourselves in makes a real difference to the way in which we perceive new ideas and the pace and attitude that we work in. Space metaphysics, which might seem a world away from the day-to-day humdrum of the office worker, is shaping and moulding working habits and encouraging the coworking "mode" through architecture and interior design.

Part of this collaborative atmosphere has been created by the rise of the internet, argues Fokdal. "An increasing number of companies and organisations no longer limit their innovation within their own walls or to their employees’ aggregate competencies. They open up and involve their users, non-users, customers, suppliers, partners and employees to co-create valuable solutions to their end-users and customers. 

"They are not able to create these solutions on their own. Creation of values has moved from going on inside your company to the outside world of your company in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders."

"This move towards creative outsourcing and flexible working means that "there is a need for new types of offices, which embraces the current trend within innovation which is largely driven by collaboration and communities in the form of co-living, co-working and co-creating, and where solutions are being developed and created in new shared communities of knowledge, insights and ideas".

Flexible working time

The modern office, then, must reflect the increasing trend brought about by the internet and by new working habits. Workers may prefer to work from home, or while travelling, or from another office and conference-call their way to work. Services likes NOHO, in the Meatpacking District of Copenhagen, allow workers to swap and change their office to suit their needs and lifestyle.

Companies which embrace the effect of the digital world on their working lives will be more adaptable, keep their workers happier, and enhance productivity.

A key part of coworking is the concept of the transfer of ideas between workers, through group brainstorming, networking and collaboration. This can happen more easily when serviced offices provide communal lounges, contemporary meeting spaces and on-site espresso bars and cafés which prevent employees leaving the building at lunchtime and losing the opportunity to develop themselves and their work. 

What's more, where serviced office facilities are shared by more than one company from different sectors, coworking is even more valuable, as new startups swap business tips, creative people share the latest design ideas, and Fintech firms reshape the way we think about money and commerce. 

Productivity and happiness

The benefit for firms for spending capital on the (sometimes expensive) spatial development of a coworking-friendly office is twofold. Firstly, they create what Fokdal calls "knowledge sharing bases", where new solutions to old problems are created through collaboration. 

"Co-working definitely is advantageous for small businesses and small business owners, who because of lack of resources don´t want to run their own office or have all the competencies in-house," he says. 

But more, anecdotal evidence suggests that employees that spend more time sharing problems, working together and using communal space prefer their work, and are happier. Naturally, this ought to be something that is encouraged for the sake of the workers themselves, but it also drives up productivity, making employees more invested in their goals and eager to perform.

Looking ahead

In future, it is likely that coworking will continue to shape the way that employment in the knowledge and service sectors looks and feels. 

"There is no doubt that the growth in the office segment is to be found in various clones of multi-user buildings. Whether it is coworking, a serviced office or something in between. This is where the needs lie in the future. And it will be at the expense of the traditional office solutions", says Thomas Fokdal. 

As the internet continues to shape our lives, employees become more flexible and productivity continues to increase, the successful business will have many fewer cubicles and many more cortados. The trend is unusual, but it is successful, and the smartest of companies will follow it. 

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