Coworking spaces have grown into a commercial juggernaut over the last decade and there is little sign of slowing down. It is estimated that by 2020 there will be over 26,000 coworking spaces globally. In central London alone, they now occupy 10.7 million square feet of space.
However, the world of work is changing fast and coworking spaces will need to evolve with it to remain relevant. They may have transformed how we perceive the workplace environment, but what does the future hold?
We spoke to members of the Primalbase community and coworking space managers around the world to find out.
The Little Guy Takes Over
“I think there’s enough space and demand in the market for more than one leader.”
Jack Tanner is one of our tenants in the Primalbase Amsterdam office. He believes the future of coworking spaces is secure. “I wholeheartedly believe that coworking spaces will become more and more prominent for many years,” he says. “Top market leaders like WeWork offer substantial benefits for users and have strong network effect and momentum.”
However, while WeWork has become one of the more prominent providers in the market, it has its limitations and this will mean an influx of smaller players in future years.
“As with most large companies,” Jack says, “they are slow to change and not able to fulfil niche markets. Both of these will always mean room for smaller coworking providers to play in the market.”
Hans Geldof is an innovation technology expert, and resident in the Primalbase Amsterdam office. He also believes there is plenty of market room for coworking diversity. “I think there’s enough space and demand in the market for more than one leader. Smaller companies are nice as they add more than one flavour to the variety and provide their own unique atmosphere.”
The Minnows Consolidate
Just as providers like WeWork have continued to grow, there is also scope for the overall industry to see consolidation of smaller providers.
Prudence Bowe is an architect in Newcastle, Australia, and has directly managed various coworking spaces around the city. When asked about this scenario for her own coworking space’s future, she expresses willingness to consider such a merger. “If our values aligned, and our aesthetic was similar, then yes,” she says. “I don’t identify myself with our brand (it’s named after the street location) so if rebranding and merging with another space was going to increase the workplace wellbeing of our members, including myself, then I’d be all for it.”
The Growth of Coworking Communities
“It’s about surrounding ourselves with like-minded people with good energy.”
One of the most important factors at Primalbase is the sense of community. For James Ovenden, Managing Editor at the Binary District Journal and one of our tenants, this sense of community has been forgotten by many coworking spaces. As we move forward, he believes the emphasis will return to creating that community spirit.
“As connectivity increases, we are ironically becoming increasingly isolated from one another. The point of coworking is to bring people together in the digital age, though too many of these companies have forgotten that. In the future, workspace culture will have to fill the hole left by company culture. This is why industry-specific locations are great, and events like those run at Primalbase help bring these communities even closer.”
Hans agrees that smaller workspaces that exist to serve a specific niche will increasingly grow in importance. This will mean more locations focused on specific fields, such as tech, or even deeper, like locations for AI developers. This provides more options for collaboration and a closer sense of community. It is also important for creating a culture more aligned with what drives success in that industry.
“We aim to cover costs, but it’s not so much about making a profit.”
This will also require people willing to get on board with that culture. Prudence explains that, “I’ve been involved in the management of three different coworking spaces in different capacities. Today, I hold a commercial lease in a partnership arrangement with our own branded coworking studio with a capacity of 12. When we started, we had a full house, but people come and go, evolve their business or move on for different reasons and finding the right tenants can be difficult. We aim to cover costs, but it’s not so much about making a profit. It’s about surrounding ourselves with like-minded people with good energy.”
Prudence believes that it’s vital for growth to attract the right people for the right space. A huge aspect of coworking for many individuals and startups is this community aspect, and the potential to form collaborative relationships. “We aim to maintain our values of creating a healthy supportive environment to attract the right people,” she says. “With the right marketing and the continued popularity of coworking spaces everywhere, we will reach our capacity and create a vibrant, social workplace culture.”
Changing Economics Bringing in New Coworking Demographics
Unpredictable economic developments are another factor which may affect the future of the coworking industry. Michael Frearson is the Digital Content Manager for Binary District, based in the Primalbase London offices. He told us about a potential scenario where larger companies could make use of coworking spaces.
“Economic forces could encourage larger organisations to devolve somewhat, hosting individual departments (or teams) in separate coworking spaces to avoid the overheads of running their own offices. This would lead to peak adoption and would either plateau or adoption levels would then fall off due to other factors. One factor potentially affecting all office space in the future could be digital presence far outweighing physical presence and thereby removing the utility of premium office space in metropolitan areas.”
This is something Primalbase understands, offering spacious offices for companies where they’re surrounded by other tech professionals. If you’re a company looking for a space, get in touch to find out what we can do for you.
How do you think coworking will change in the future? Let us know in the comments below!