The Disruption Era: The Future Of Coworking
The pandemic was a total unforeseen surprise, taking us unprepared to face what was about to come. Here one of the biggest world shifts happened: We started working from home.
The concept of remote working isn't new. Still, even though some people were already used to a home office, most weren't. Living rooms became the new workspaces, dining tables became the new desks, pajamas became the new suits while Zoom and Tencent became the new conference rooms.
Companies are slowly beginning to think about how they are going to reopen and while some companies are sticking to the work-from-home model for the foreseeable future. However, working 100% remotely seems unlikely, since the human connection is one of our most important needs, along with safety according to Buffer.
My firm is based in China, and from my perspective, China took a commanding role in the global business disruption, but are we ready for what's coming?
Shifting To Shared Areas
Coworking spaces are becoming fast-growing realities, and China is the leader in the shared economy movement, from Mobike, Didi, Mobile Chargers, PingDuoDuo, and so on. The speech of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang calling for "mass entrepreneurship" in 2015, probably contributed to the rising of startups in China, which created a steady demand for flexible small-office spaces, making the Chinese coworking culture grow quickly over the last years.
Open offices were about to turn into normality even in the rest of the world, as Covid-19 accelerated remote working. Covid-19 just accelerated this progress. Still, many of us don't like them.
So, Why Do We Still Need Offices?
Before the pandemic, millions of people worked in offices daily. Yet things have changed. New platforms allow us to access almost all the tools we need as well as to work remotely through different-time-zoned teams.
Some say it's because of the human need for connection that offices are a physical manifestation of the company and the brands' embodiment. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, 20% to 30% of the working population is already engaging in some form of independent work. Besides, having no (or less) offices can help save a lot of money.
What The Pandemic Has Taught Us
Data encouraging remote working has been going around for years. Nine-month research from Stanford showed remote workers are 13% more productive, along with a recent Gartner study (March 2020), which suggested that 74% of CFOs "plan to permanently shift to more remote work post-COVID-19."
In September 2020, M Moser, one of the leading architecture firms for office space creation in APAC, announced during the exhibition launch of Shanghai Smart Technology at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre (SNIEC), that shared areas should be a definitive solution, but we need to rethink the spaces for an innovation culture, designed to meet everyone's needs via diverse departments. The time when we all do the same things has come to an end: More than ever, the demand for a new ecosystem is increasing.
If there's one thing that the pandemic taught us, is that we all need to be part of a community where one of the main human needs is connection and belonging.
Coworking spaces are incredibly valuable for community building, as they can host networking events and workshops, and provide an area for people to meet and brainstorm. At the Material Experience Centre (MEC) in Santoni's facility based in China, one of the companies my agency is collaborating with, 70% of its office space is an open floor. People can network and attend events dedicated to leadership, diversity, and advocacy, bringing different industry professionals together who have the same aim of developing innovative textiles.
What Will The New Workplace Will Look Like?
Indeed, technology is unquestionably going to be a crucial point. A short report from CBInsights shows the "office of the future" will probably have voice tech systems to avoid touching, as well as autonomous cleaning solutions; air-improving systems to make us more productive; sensors to count people in rooms, along with a wellness check at the entry.
One other important point is sustainability.
Since workers spend most of their time indoors, it's crucial to make that environment livable and sustainable. According to Accenture, just 11% of the employees are completely satisfied with their workspace.
Also, many governmental initiatives plan to cut carbon footprints down by developing nearly zero-energy consumption buildings. Some companies also have come up with different solutions to reduce energy usages, such as solar panels, systems that use rain or water energy as well as some innovative solutions like converting workers' footsteps into data and energy.
According to the global coworking community GCUC, while the U.S. and Europe are expected to grow slowly, China is catching up fast and is expected to step over within the next few years, as the global number of coworking spaces increases by over one-third by 2022.
Like any big step out of the past, we have to be aware that things are going to change and be ready to ride the wave of an inevitable global upgrade.