Coworking accounts for 27 million square feet of office space in the U.S. alone. At present, there exist 14,411 coworking spaces across the globe. In Chicago, London, and New York, coworking spaces are growing by 20 percent per year. By the end of this decade, there will be close to four million professionals taking advantage of these shared environments.
Even more conventional organizations are getting into the game by offering their employees the opportunity to get out of the traditional office to collaborate in a flexible work environment. An article published in the Harvard Business Review notes that coworking space provider WeWork has seen a 370 percent increase in enterprise customers over the last year. By mid-2018, corporate customers made up one quarter of the company’s members and revenues. WeWork clients IBM, UBS, and Facebook have enlisted the provider to develop stand-alone locations for their respective organizations.
With all of this movement in the marketplace, how do providers of coworking spaces differentiate themselves from the competition? One way is by offering technology tools that boost worker efficiency in a way that contributes to increased engagement, more productive meetings, and teamwork that results in problem-solving and innovation. In other words, technology tools allow co-working space users to work and collaborate better than their competitors.
Great minds may think alike, but multiple minds think differently. Collaboration produces breakthroughs that wouldn’t necessarily happen in a conventional corporate environment. Coworking space design focuses on providing areas where spontaneous, serendipitous encounters may take place. These spaces allow people who may not have had a chance to meet elsewhere to connect and collaborate. At the same time, established teams need both a venue and a vehicle through which they may share their work easily and without technical limitations.
“When you think about a modern space, technology also defines that space. It sort of embodies how you interact with your environment, how you move content from all your devices,” says Chris Jaynes, PhD founder and CTO of Mersive, a wireless collaboration solutions developer. Wireless collaboration technology sits at the heart of this exercise. By seamlessly integrating displays with laptops and mobile devices, it enables professionals to share, annotate, and update their materials in real time, as the meeting takes place. And, of course, it allows users to save their revisions for future consultation. But while technology is the enabler, it’s not the main point. It should simply allow people to work the way they want to work. “If you really think about a mobility culture, it’s about users coming into a space, being able to cast content from any device that they happen to have––even that little phone you carry in your pocket…and being able to bring that to bear in a meeting quickly … and throw it on any display? It’s fantastic.”
The key to truly effective collaboration is the ease with which team members can get down to work. Anyone who has attended at least a few meetings is familiar with the 15-minute rule. Oftentimes, the session starts about 15 minutes late because participants are forced to fiddle with the room technology before they may attend to business. Accustomed to the simplicity of their smartphones and the convenience they offer in connecting to wireless networks, coworking members have minimal tolerance for these annoyances. “Our clients are paying a premium to be on site, so they need to mitigate that downtime of getting that meeting set up. Because that 15 minutes, is 15 minutes of their agenda [that’s] gone,” Michael Judeh, regional director of technology at coworking space provider Convene, recently explained in a panel discussion, The Future of Collaboration Technology in the Workplace. “The biggest request that we’re getting … is that things are easy to plug in, easy to connect to, and are supportable by the onsite team.”
Usability is key. You can have all the technology bells and whistles in the world, but if people can’t figure out how to use it in 60 seconds, they won’t.
For more about coworking space design, download our Infographic Guide to Coworking Design.