4 Common Misconceptions About Co-Working

When I first started working in the co-working industry more than 15 years ago, everyone who walked through our door had to be educated about what co-working actually was. From reassuring people that there was enough space for all to work comfortably to teaching them our community norms, I could see that even the early adopters were skeptical.

The tables have turned since then. And while most people in the business world are now fully familiar with co-working, there are still some widespread misconceptions about shared workspaces that I would like to clear up.

‘Co-Working Is a Millennial Trend’

Many people think co-working spaces are nothing but large open offices where a handful of twentysomethings sit in clusters and type away, headphones on. But that picture couldn’t be further from the reality.

Co-working is all about community. In my experience, fostering a diverse community that helps people build connections and find inspiration to grow is what makes a co-working space thrive.

For example, Workbar members come from a variety of backgrounds, including age, industry and gender. Pulling data from our Workbar user base we saw that the majority of our co-working members are in their mid- to late 30s and have an average of five to 10 years of professional experience.

‘Only Small Businesses and Startups Use Co-Working Spaces’

While co-working is very popular among freelancers, small-business owners and early-stage startup founders, shared workspaces have diversified since the early 2000s, and those joining the trend come from a variety of industries and from companies of all sizes.

Billion-dollar tech companies like IBM and Microsoft have placed employees around the country into co-working spaces in recent years, as a move to support innovation and employee satisfaction as well as to reduce real estate costs.

‘Companies Use Co-Working Mainly as a Temporary Space Solution’

While this was true when co-working first started, with the changes in the HR world and the steady growth we have seen in remote work, these days co-working is a permanent solution for many companies and professionals.

Remote workers and freelancers don’t want to go back to traditional offices now that they can enjoy on-demand, shared workspaces that offer the flexibility they need. Large companies, on the other hand, are realizing that giving their employees the opportunity to work in collaborative environments where they are most comfortable can increase productivity greatly.

‘Co-Working Is a Perk of Living in a Metropolis’

Many associate the co-working movement with the biggest and most congested cities; think New York, Chicago, Berlin, London. However, part of the beauty of shared workspaces is that they help ease people’s commutes. So, what if you don’t live in the heart of the city? What if you have a family in the suburbs and want to use an efficient workspace that is also close to home? Co-working is an option for you too.

When we developed Workbar’s hyper-regional model, we did it with surban professionals in mind. With our expansion we’re not only looking to serve city folks; we want to grow in the suburbs. The idea is to ensure that professionals don’t have to travel more than 20 minutes to get to work. Wouldn’t it be great to do something else with the time we usually spend commuting?

Co-working has certainly come a long way since I first got involved in the industry, but the most interesting chapter is yet to come. As co-working grows and disrupts the HR and real estate industries worldwide, it will continue to gain popularity. And I might even risk saying that in a few years, sharing a workspace will be a standard practice for most professionals and companies in all industries.

#WorkTrends: The Way We Work

The way we work is changing — fast. Where we work, who we work with and how we get work done is all evolving. On this week’s episode we talk to Sarah Travers, CEO of the co-working space Workbar, and to one head of recruiting who thinks remote working and co-working aren’t going anywhere.

Travers is a longtime co-working evangelist. She has spent her entire career selling the idea of co-working, first at IWG (Regus), a global provider of flexible workspace solutions. She joined Workbar in late 2017. She has the unique perspective of witnessing the industry’s explosive growth — as both a seasoned veteran of the world’s largest shared office giant and as the CEO of Boston’s original co-working space.

She shares her thoughts on where the industry is headed and why co-working is so much more than either a physical space or the popular image of a collection of young digital nomads working on computers in a shared space.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Making Connections

Travers says co-working is often defined as a group of individuals working together in a shared communal setting, which evokes the idea of a young digital workers in an open room focusing on their own tasks — a concept she says “couldn’t be further from the truth.” Rather, she says, users often find the co-working atmosphere inspiring and valuable because it offers the opportunity to make connections and work beside people from all different types of businesses and companies.

She says co-working users are also drawn to businesses development opportunities through classes, event programming and networking at new member lunches or happy hours. “There are just a lot of ways to grow your own personal and professional network in this space,” she says. “It just goes beyond that sort of original idea of a bunch of millennials sitting with headphones typing away in one big room.”

Changing Demographics and Needs

Travers says her company’s research clearly debunks the idea that co-working spaces are just for millennials or people in technology. She says Workbar members cut across a number of industries and have an average age of 38 or 39. They are also increasingly employees of large organizations.

“I think that you also hear that only individuals and small teams use co-working space,” she says. “We have seen that Fortune 500 companies often use co-working for not just for remote employees but also for groups as a way to sort of drive innovation outside of a traditional headquarters.”

What’s Driving Growth

Travers says co-working is clearly no longer thought of as just a short-term trend or a solution for people who don’t want to work from their kitchen table or in a coffee shop. She says one factor driving the increasing popularity of co-working spaces is a cultural shift away from merely clocking in and out of work and toward getting more satisfaction and meaning from our jobs.

“There’s a real value proposition behind it that’s been embraced by a larger audience as some of the big players in the industry both on the landlord and the tenant side,” she says. “The landlords have awareness that they need to evolve their offerings more to meet the changing environments. On the flip side, the tenants are more focused on the need to enjoy the experience of the office environment.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.