It’s Not Just Startups Anymore: the Rise of Co-working Movement

Not that long ago, co-working was just a term that we were aware of. Now everyone is talking about the movement, the demand for these collaborative spaces continues to rise, while more and more large corporations start introducing their own internal co-working models. Sounds like it’s a perfect topic to kick-start a series of Q&A blog posts that discuss the modern office, right?

We are incredibly excited to be able to share these amazing insights from some of the most original prominent voices in the A&D industry:

  • Moya Neilson, co-owner and Director of Business & Marketing, CHBC Office Group CHBC Office Group source, design, brand and manage workplaces for organisations around the world. CHBC’s global teams have an extensive and in-depth knowledge within the industry which allows them to take care of country specific challenges.

  • Vivek Kharia, the principal architect at Designtude Studio Designtude Studio is a workspace design firm based in Bangalore, India. They design workspaces for global clientele as well as Indian start-ups. Designtude works with companies interested in ushering change with design.

  • Diogo Cavallari, Isadora Marchi, Paulo Catto and Victor Berbel – the awesome team behind AUÁ Arquitetos (AUÁ) The word aua, in tupi – an indigenous Brazilian language – means human being. AUA arquitetos is a Brazilian architecture firm that believes good design is a result of being able to understand and investigate the context around you, either social, economic or environmental.

  • Marcos Aldrighi, an architect and partner at Piratininga Arquitetos Associados Founded in 1984, Piratininga Arquitetos Associados is an enterprise working with architectural design in various professional segments: planning, building and interior, in addition to having a wide range of experience with urban developments.

So why is co-working gaining so much traction? What actually makes a successful co-working space? What does the future hold for the movement? Keep reading our Q&A…

In terms of office design, what does co-working space usually look and feel like? How is it different from designing a regular office space?

Moya Neilson: As an office fit out company, we have clients who have commissioned us to design co-working spaces, the brief has been – open workplaces to give a place to work and stay productive – by the hour or by the day. Sometimes you need to close the door and make phone calls, or get focused on work, and private work spaces give you that privacy. Whether you’re hosting a large meeting or presenting to a client, conference rooms provide all the amenities you’ll need.

Vivek Kharia:

Co-working spaces are typically community workspaces. Any co-working space needs to have a balance of individual and team work spaces. The design of co-working spaces should minimize noise and interference and keep people interaction high. The place needs to have high degree of flexibility in terms of spatial and furniture usage. On the other hand, a regular office space always has fixed requirements, set standards or brand priorities or preferences.

AUA Arquitetos:

We believe almost every good place to work is actually a co-working space, in some way. You don’t necessarily work all the time with the other people sharing the same space, but you always have to coexist in that place. So, when you design the space to allow you to take profit of that coexistence, professionally or personally, then you can distinguish a good co-working space from a regular office.

Marcos Aldrighi:

A regular office space usually has its work culture, its corporative image and its trademark and the physical space reveals that feeling. The concept of co-working is different. The space of co-working gathers a group of people who are working independently and share the same working environment. People that could be working at home or alone anywhere. So I think co-working space should be a welcoming, cozy and friendly space in order to improve the creativity and wellbeing of people.

What are some of the most exciting things that are happening with co-working today? Why is the movement gaining so much traction?
Moya Neilson:

You no longer need to work from home (with all the personal distractions) or work from a café where Wi-Fi is slow, no printers are around and the ever-present coffee drink blender prevents concentration and conference calls.

The private office rentals can be a few days a week, a few days a month, for short-term projects by the month, or for six months at a time, depending on the available space. People can reserve space for the dates and times needed. If a start-up company needs to interview, hire, and train a mobile workforce, for example, a meeting room can be reserved for one day each week to hold interviews, a conference room can be reserved for training, and a private office can be reserved for a period of two months while the project gets off the ground. That will save the business a lot of time and money. Traditional offices often require at least a six month contract. Other uses for workspace can be a presentation to perspective investors, a monthly meeting with a mobile workforce, or just a shared space to get out of the house once a week. Hosted events at shared work spaces include weekly lunches or happy hours, informational meetings with guests, support groups, collaborative efforts, brainstorming sessions, or discussions about staying motivated and sparking creativity.

Vivek Kharia:

First and foremost, it’s the most cost effective option, especially for start-ups. These spaces have become hubs for mentorship and networking events. These are precisely the reasons why this movement is becoming popular.

AUA Arquitetos:

People are rediscovering how to do things together, not only in professional terms, and that movement seems to be getting stronger because this collaborative production or interaction is often more tangible. Each one can contribute with a different knowledge and turn a traditional production into a desirable process, not only a desirable result.

How can a co-working space remain unique as more and more competitors are showing up?
Moya Neilson:

That business owner, for example, may need a cheap office space for rent a couple of days a week or a month to do paperwork, check reports, review software, or analyze marketing strategies. There are locations where co-working space can be rented by the hour or the day, with no contract required. Space can include shared space, a dedicated workstation, a private office, or a conference room. Amenities included with space for co-working are fast Wi-Fi, printers, copiers, flat screen televisions, white boards, presentation equipment, and the latest technology for interactive meetings at different locations. A fully stocked kitchen that has snacks, coffee, and soft drinks, and a refrigerator to put lunches, will ensure that no one goes hungry or lacks for caffeine.

Vivek Kharia:

Any space will remain unique and popular if it is well located and continues to actively engage. Top notch services and networking events hold the key to sustaining the business.

AUA Arquitetos:

Maybe that is possible with a design that allows the space to change over time, by incorporating the characteristics and values of those who work there. Sometimes people have similar needs and intentions even in distinct careers, so if a co-working space can help establish relations between those values and different professionals, their own affinities and disagreements will show some possible ways to keep adapting.

Marcos Aldrighi:

I think there’s several (and so much different) things to be taken into consideration: the probability of meeting talented and smart people in the work environment; meeting creatives and entrepreneurs who share your values. Besides that, I think, setting a networking is important too and the low cost you pay to have a table inside this environment.

What’s the biggest difference between a successful co-working space and the one that’s doomed for failure in your opinion?
Moya Neilson:

When you enter a co-working space you join a community of great people. They share the same space, sometimes they collaborate on projects, they support each other and socialize. It’s a very popular way of working.

It appears that the age old debate rages on… how to find the balance between the individual and the group.

Vivek Kharia:

Mentors, events, services and their quality hold the key to success. If not, it turns into a dull business centre.

AUA Arquitetos:

It’s probably the amount of ways to interact with the people around you and the space itself. A successful co-working space should provide different atmospheres to respond to different people and their moods or job needs. Even someone who basically works from a laptop over a simple table can benefit from working sometimes at a meeting room, a reading area or a more public space.

Usually a co-working space is being perceived as a perfect place for early startups. Do you see any benefits of co-working for more established businesses?
Moya Neilson:

Co-working spaces are normally accessible 24/7. People can decide whether to put in a long day when they have a deadline or want to show progress, or can decide to take a long break in the middle of the day to go to the gym. They can choose whether they want to work in a quiet space so they can focus, or in a more collaborative space with shared tables where interaction is encouraged.

The benefits are real. And, while the workforce continues to shift, traditional office settings will incorporate new designs adapting the co-working ethos into established office layout.

Vivek Kharia:

Established businesses could have people working out of co-working spaces across cities if they are traveling- something akin to club memberships. The idea is still evolving so we don’t know the acceptability by established businesses. Usage depends upon people functions. Yes, it will make economic sense for established players too.

AUA Arquitetos:

That depends on the size and characteristics of the established businesses, but essentially anyone can improve from social and professional interaction, which we consider one of the best things about co-working spaces. We could also try to answer this question not necessarily by convincing an established business to join an existing co-working space or to create and entirely new one, but by showing to this firm that they can slowly incorporate co-working areas and qualities into their current operation. This can work as a continuous development or adaptation process to the firm, starting with small, temporary or partial time functioning co-working spaces and activities.

Marcos Aldrighi:

Yes! Especially for architects or design companies, or even technology ones.

Do you see any co-working space design mistakes that could and should be avoided?
Moya Neilson:

Focus on community, then space. Focus on function, then business. Focus on location, location, location. Focus on utilities, then furniture. Focus on local, then beyond. Partnerships and friendships blossom in the space and eventually lead to great company and business opportunities.

Vivek Kharia:

Rigid and fixed spatial design is to be avoided. Flexibility is the thumb rule.

AUA Arquitetos:

A rigid or unique spatial organization usually reduces the possibilities of use. Some professionals may prefer a traditional layout organization to keep concentration, others will focus better listening to music sitting at a garden, some groups need to discuss frequently, so if it isn’t possible to predict exactly who’s going to use the co-working space, it should be as plural or adaptable as possible.

Marcos Aldrighi:

The great contribution of co-working space was its spontaneity way to promote well planned spaces, natural lighting, informal, ludic and cozy ways for working, thinking, creating, loving and living in the big cities spread in over the world. Nowadays, it is necessary to avoid the “commoditization” of these spaces that some investors intend to make with them!

What do you predict the future of co-working will look like?
Moya Neilson:

Change today is relentless! Along with a climate of disruption, the global nature of business make cultural integration even harder. The workplace is the center of the action. Factors like workforce mobility and higher real estate densities make it much harder for organizations to leverage change to realize their vision of the future.

The new approach will use social media to get end-user feedback. Integrating the organization’s business goals, strategies and metrics, and its evolving brand and culture, the process can be tailored to ensure a successful, and transformative outcome.

Vivek Kharia: In India, it is a trend that has caught on due to startups and the entrepreneurs willing to add services to the traditional business centres. It will grow and the pace will depend upon the health of the national economy.

AUA Arquitetos:

Maybe the co-working future will be to put together intellectual and manual work more and more. They will be places to share not only theoretical but also practical knowledge and probably emphasizing urban and human questions: How can we live better together? Shouldn’t we discuss our cities issues from this or that point of view? Can we experiment something and try its efficiency out there?

Marcos Aldrighi:

To think about the future, it is necessary to think about the present first. Therefore, more than to predict the future of co-working, our goal should be to think how to design, in a sustainable way, our cities today to improve our lifestyle through concepts as mobility, public space, housing, parks, nature, entertainment, enjoyment, etc. When that goal is reached, the co-working space can be situated, for instance, in a piece of a park of that city with a lake as your landscape, and sheltered by a great tensile coverage to protect your customers.


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