Flexibility in the Work Space: Trending in a City Near You

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What does the future hold for coworking space?
The men and women of TV’s “Mad Men” were mad about their sleek (and smoke-filled) offices on Madison Avenue in 1960s-era New York City. Five decades later, the modern-day counterparts of those ad-agency men and women might be hanging out in sleek offices, but in entirely different settings.

In recent years, more and more workers around the U.S. — including the Austin area — are doing the 9-to-5 at shared offices known as coworking spaces. While these spaces might house traditional businesses like software companies, law firms, real estate brokerages and ad agencies, the spaces themselves are anything but traditional.

In short, coworking is shaking up the notion of what it means to work in an office.

These offices – operated by companies like WeWork, Intelligent Office, Knotel, Office Evolution, FIRMSPACE and others — rent space by the hour, month or year.  That’s a departure from the norm, which involves locking tenants into multiyear leases.

Furthermore, coworking spaces boast amenities that some regular office buildings don’t, such as 24/7 access, tons of common areas and meeting rooms, beer on tap, bicycle storage and private phone booths. By one account, the median size of a coworking space is 20,000 square feet.

As it stands now, the coworking craze will only continue to explode. A 2017 report from the Global Coworking Unconference Conference, or GCUC, forecasts 30,432 coworking spaces will be open around the world by 2022 with 5.1 million coworking members. That would be up from 14,411 spaces and 1.74 million members in 2017.

Still, what most coworking members will tell you is that while shared office space is competing more heavily with traditional office space, they’re not opposed to the idea of regular digs. A 2016 report from CBRE indicated that one-third of coworking users expected to graduate to traditional leased offices at some point in the future.

CBRE says that although coworking represents just a sliver of the total office market today, “it offers a new channel for landlords to tap into a growing and dynamic market that is satisfying user needs.”

The Austin area is certainly seeing its own coworking boom, fueled by an array of tenants.

WeWork has five locations in Austin, with more undoubtedly on the way.  Fort Worth-based competitor Craftwork Coffee Co., plans in 2019 to open a coworking and coffee spot near WeWork’s Domain Northside location.  And FIRMSPACE opened its “upscale, professional” co-working space in a high rise downtown last October.

In the midst of the ever-growing competition in this space, companies face an uphill battle in truly differentiating themselves to make them attractive to prospective clients.   What makes a particular firm’s service superior?

Tell a compelling story

Shared amenties, networking events, conference rooms – many of these features can be found at any coworking space.  What people, including prospective clients, will truly connect with is a compelling story.

According to “Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins” author Annette Simmons, storytelling has proven to be an incredibly effective method of communication.  Among them: “Who I am,”  “Why I’m here,”  and “Vision” stories. Consider that “stories are remembered up to 22 more times than facts alone,” according to Jennifer Aaker, Stanford University Behavioral Psychologist.

Profiling a tenant and sharing how the coworking environment helped to foster that tenant’s business growth is one example.

Produce relevant content

Content is only effective if it truly resonates with a company’s audience. As a result, it is imperative that a company goes through the exercise of determining who its audience (s) is/are.  Just as important is identifying two to three brand “pillars”  — or main themes — on which to shape key messages that will resonate with that audience (s).

Become a trusted voice in the industry

Contrary to what you might think, it’s not just tech startups that are driving this coworking trend. Even slow-to-adopt and slow-to-adapt banks are getting in on the coworking movement, tapping into flexible workspaces as they grow in ancillary markets, according to the Global Workspace Association.

However, while coworking presents an opportunity in commercial real estate, it also remains a threat. As GCUC notes, more corporations are turning to coworking space. The organization predicts this trend will accelerate over the next several years as corporations (like Amazon and IBM) seek to reduce their exposure to long-term leases and their employees insist on varied workplace options.

It’s trends like these that help develop a point of view for your leadership team as well as expertise in the space. Each coworking company has it’s own reason for exsistence, leverage trends showcasing your expertise in the very industry you’re looking to capture.

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