Original article by Saidat Giwa-Osagie posted on propmodo.com
Co-working is here to stay. Beyond the sleek minimalist office aesthetics and controversial Wall Street valuations, real estate vendors cannot ignore community within co-working spaces if they want to see their co-working establishments flourish. The co-working scene has ballooned into a lucrative global industry, with an estimated 35,000 co-working spaces worldwide. It’s no longer viewed as a fad. Commercial real estate providers are in a prime position to expand in this space. However, a new perspective is required. One that combines a community-driven focus.
For real estate operators with co-working ambitions, it’s important to recognise community as the heart of a co-working space. In the 2017 Global Co-working Survey, the top three reasons for members joining a co-working space was the social and enjoyable atmosphere, social interaction and community. Coming together through shared location and interest is nothing new, but in co-working spaces, opportunities to connect and network with other members are advertised as a benefit of joining. Co-working members have more transient workplace arrangements than a traditional corporate tenant. As more co-working spaces spring up, it will create member’s market because they will have a plethora of choices and community will likely be the deciding factor.
“Copying what’s tangible is absolutely easy,” says Marc Navarro, a co-working consultant based in Barcelona, Spain. “If a space is copying yours, and we’re only 100 metres away, what’s the only difference we have?” A workspace interior can be replicated, but community cannot.
This new co-working landscape requires real estate owners to take a customer driven approach that puts community first, in order to succeed. The current paradigm of co-working spaces is to find a location first, then facilitate community around it which is one reason why community is not usually a top priority for real estate owners. It’s the opposite of how co-working communities first evolved.
“Some of them actually started as a community of practice before there was even a space,” says University of Michigan business professor, Gretchen Spreitzer.
However, according to Liz Elam, an early co-working space owner and founder of the Global co-working Unconference Conference, the real estate industry is a “sleeping giant” that has an important role to play in the future of co-working.
She says, “The real estate industry has an opportunity to become part of this huge global phenomenon, but the thing they’re going to have to learn, which is difficult for the real-estate industry, is that community is a vital part of co-working and if you don’t have community people won’t thrive, and your co-working space won’t thrive.”
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