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The Shared Workplace: Culture, Connectivity, and Cost

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If you haven’t noticed the trend toward co-working, you must have been avoiding visiting a coffee shop, casual restaurant, or hotel lobby lately. In part two, we talk about the decision points for shared workspaces.

The first article in this series, The Shared Workplace in The Sharing Economy, provided a summary of a big report from the commercial real estate megacorp CBRE. It’s a credit to that company’s forward-thinking vision that they are doing research on a trend that doesn’t involve buying or leasing expensive, full-service office space.

Part two of the report (available with a free registration) dives into how we should make decisions about these kinds of spaces:

This report focuses on three critical differentiators commercial real estate professionals and small business executives should consider when they evaluate the merits of a contemporary shared workplace: culture, connectivity and cost.
We will explore the following questions for both start-ups and established companies:

  • When can shared workplaces be used to reflect an organization’s culture?
  • Why are the benefits of community and collaborative environments important?
  • How does the shared workplace offer flexibility, agility and an innovative cost approach?

These are big questions, and the report provides some interesting data.

Coworking at a Library

© Flickr user Joshua Blount

Culture and Shared Workspaces

Organizations like to boast about what it’s like to work for them. A quote attributed to the famed management consultant Peter Drucker reads: “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The idea here is that a company which has a positive, collaborative spirit with great people that care about each other will do better than one that has a well-defined strategy, but poor morale.

Unfortunately, culture is complicated and is not a silver bullet. A trio of life-long buddies may get along great but there is no guarantee they will bring anything home from a weekend fishing trip.

There is some good insight from CBRE, however. They write:

Serviced offices reflect a more formal, private and customary culture, whereas co-working facilities reflect a
more progressive, transparent and modern culture. Although both models may serve primary drivers other than reflecting
culture, choosing one model over the other is certainly a lens into the type of values a company employs.

That may be “we do things the way we’ve always done them” vs “we’re open to trying something new.” But the report also includes a single sentence that is packed with how our world is changing:

Co-working spaces offer a diversity of environments that give occupants options to choose where and how they want to work—and optionality is a key value for modern mobile employees.

Put more simply: people like having the freedom to choose when and where they work. As our friend and guest blogger Michael Reynolds likes to say: stop working so hard on your company culture and focus on freedom instead.

Community and Collaboration

Working with other people is big in modern business. We’re always trying to get people to team up, go to meetings, attend conferences, and collaborate. The irony is that working in groups doesn’t really work. That’s not to say that you can’t accomplish more as a team, just that you’re not at all guaranteed to do so. A big group of people are at work in a game of tug-of-war, but that doesn’t mean it’s productive.

So what are the benefits of shared workspaces? Once again, it comes down to choice. If you need to brainstorm, network, prototype, or discuss ideas, a collaborative, open-format location is a great place to do it. But if you need to concentrate, finding a quiet corner or a private office is also an option. CBRE’s research indicates that nearly half of all co-working participants like the community and networking benefits of a shared workspace.

The Bottom Line: Costs

Here’s where the authors of this report demonstrate their commitment to an honest reporting of trends rather than protecting the old ways of doing business. If you’ve ever leased commercial space, you know how complex and opaque the process can be. Instead, shared workspaces have huge advantages, including:

The negotiating process is removed, making it easier and faster to acquire space. Pricing is transparent and contracting for space is often reduced to a credit card swipe.

And also:

The shared workplace license agreement is usually considered an annual expense rather than a multiyear lease liability on the balance sheet.

It’s hard to imagine every aspect of commercial real estate going in this direction, but the shift is undeniable. Ease of use and flexibility are of incredible value to today’s businesses.

Tune in next time for part three of the report. And in the meantime, head to a coworking space in your community to see how things get done.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
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