The “workplace of the future”: work of today

A short practitioner’s take on Deloitte’s recent study “The workplace of the future: How digital technology and the sharing economy are changing the Swiss workforce”.

You can download said study and more in English, German and French on bit.ly/deloitteCHworkplaceofthefutureEN

Problem

One of the biggest problems for coworking spaces operators in Switzerland these past few years was: lack of precise, relevant data for our businesses, hence lack of understanding of the reality of the coworkers we serve on a daily basis for other stakeholders.

We end up quoting most of the times global, grassroots surveys and studies. For instance, the annual Deskmag Coworking survey and forecast being the reference in Europe, and most recently this initiative by Jacob Sayles from the GCUC USA community. Great for trends and inspiration, sometimes inadequate when talking to hyperlocal Swiss people not aware yet of the global dimension of it.

Academia efforts exist too, but nothing totally ground-breaking so far in my opinion, apart the book from my friend Antoine Burret. But it covers the broader topic of (open source) third spaces, in French. If you are aware of the existence of other serious, open access science publications about coworking, please share in the comments.

Yet, the present reality of coworking in Switzerland is: it is (finally) booming, community- and business-wise, like, really. The will from local Swiss actors to contribute more to the global conversation and share more is also there. But a coworking space operator or member, in Switzerland and everywhere in the world, is running a small business with low margins and thus desperately lacks one precious thing: time. Time to collect numbers and to build maps and to share them, time for the broader picture.

Part of the solution

This Deloitte report provides such Swiss-only data, finally: it is a very good starting point for a data-driven conversation in this country from now on, many thanks!

Some definitely useful quick take-aways I now use on a daily basis:

  • State of the coworking offer: 50 spaces, 1000 coworkers (correlates pretty well with the reality of our coworking.ch members)
  • About 2.5 M people might work remotely in Switzerland, soon (testing home offices, or looking for better options once they need more social link and productivity)
  • One in four Swiss residents do freelance work
  • Employees of Small and Large businesses working remotely (i.e. not at the headquarters with all their colleagues) are still widely under-represented in the Swiss coworking spaces of today, despite a changing landscape for said employees.

Let’s start a conversation based on this, whatever your field of activity is. Love it, hate it, learn about it, ignore it, but coworking and more broadly remote (freelance and corporate) working is coming to Switzerland too, like everywhere else.

Near future

A word we often hear in our field is “innovation”. I tend to use it only when cornered to, because of huge misunderstandings in the past. Same with “future of…”.

It is probably the best moment to share again this exceptional Joi Ito talk, introducing the “now-ist” notion, as opposed to “futurist”:

Coworking operators and members are definitely “now-ists”. We live and work and develop businesses and meaningful activities for our communities by being deeply grounded into the present, hustling hard everyday. We rely deeply on a distributed network of friends and professional acquaintances, adapted to our current main project. We tend to contribute and give before asking. Most of us are starting and developing businesses or not-for-profits efforts with “make the world a better place, with a positive local impact” being the actual main goal.

I can’t wait to seeing more and more data and stories in the coworking and associated fields coming from this great laboratory being known as “Switzerland”, hoping we practitioners here can be more and more an inspiration and a change-driving force in the local and global community, both in volume and quality. Because those ways of working and living are already the present of a growing number of Swiss residents, and the near future of many more. More than 2 million people, mind you!

But a lot has to be built before the coworking industry would be able to welcome such a crowd in a satisfying way, near you. Better networking and sharing between the existing communities and spaces and people inside those, to faster and better develop this young industry together. Creation and development of many more of those meaningful communities and spaces, too. My way of doing my fair share is by co-building villageoffice.ch, but we will talk about it another time ;)

If you want to join the movement and contribute with good ol’ hard work/money/love NOW, a great first step could be to get in touch (email me or tweet me or snap me or highlight/comment/recommend just here, or share this article, pretty please).

Disclaimer:

The President of coworking.ch, Jenny, was interviewed for this Deloitte study (you can find her quote reproduced above on page 13 of the report). I am serving as a Board Member for coworking.ch too.
We are really glad a well-known actor of the “old economy” took its best shot at researching and picturing the landscape of coworking, third spaces, sharing economy and how they will change deeply the Swiss economy and society, based on actual data and the reality of the communities and spaces and efforts of today in this country. But we didn’t do more than that regarding that study :)

About Deloitte:

““Deloitte” is the brand under which tens of thousands of dedicated professionals in independent firms throughout the world collaborate to provide audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk management, tax and related services to selected clients.” (source)

About coworking.ch:

We are the Swiss Coworking Spaces operators who started to gather and organize since 2014 to better state and share with other local actors our common values and what we do, and to be better at sharing our best practices, peer-to-peer. Our last General Assembly as an association was held in June 2015. As of Feb. 28th 2016, we had 48 Swiss Coworking spaces represented amongst our members. Want to help us organize the first Swiss Coworking Unconference in June 2016? Tell us more about you here!

About coworking (without an hyphen):

If you never worked from a coworking space, and are not a member of a local community, where to start? A pretty good first step is probably the “Coworking” Wikipedia entry (étonnant, non ?). If willing to dive deeper now, discover how this global community share information: the Coworking wiki, the Coworking Google Group or even the Coworking Leadership Slack channel are all great options. Reading then The Coworking Handbook by my dear friend Ramon Suarez will finally equip you with a deep understanding of the reality behind operating such a specific community-driven business: you are ready to start your own local community, and open a related space, with the help of your peers from all over this planet. Congrats!