Contract - Coworking: A Workplace Paradigm Shift

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Coworking: A Workplace Paradigm Shift

22 August, 2014

-By Krista Sykes



Where do you work? For most with a desk job, the answer used to be the office, home, or even a coffee shop. Today we have another, increasingly popular option: coworking, a shared work environment for those working independently. Less than a decade ago, coworking appeared as an alternative workplace model. Focused on collaboration and community, coworking has grown rapidly in the intervening years, greatly shaping how we work as well as expectations of workplace interiors.

According to the online coworking magazine Deskmag, the first designated coworking space opened as a nonprofit co-op in San Francisco in 2005. Spurred by a rising independent workforce, a recognized disadvantage of long-term office leases, and a human need for connection, approximately 600 coworking spaces were open by 2010. Steve King of Emergent Research estimates that 3,200 coworking spaces exist globally today, with roughly 1,200 in the United States alone. He predicts that the coworking industry will continue this rapid expansion, growing at a rate of 40 percent annually for the next five years. “That means 12,000 coworking spaces in 2018,” says King, “with one million members across the world.”

Today’s coworking spaces offer members a place to work alone but together, within a collaborative community of like-minded individuals. Coworking spaces vary greatly depending on ownership—either individual or corporate—and intended membership, ranging from general to specialized. Membership commitments are typically month-to-month,
and relaxed, open layouts with informal table arrangements characterize most facilities. In addition to kitchen areas, conference rooms, and dedicated suites, some feature spaces for
different kinds of work—lounges for collaboration, small nooks for contemplation, or booths for private conversations. Amenities such as game stations, meditation rooms, educational events, and regular happy hours add to the coworking interiors’ unique identities.

All shapes and sizes
Most coworking spaces are privately owned, with one or two locations. Some are generalist spaces; Office Nomads in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood and BLANKSPACES, with two sites in Los Angeles, are open to anyone. Other coworking facilities cater to specific kinds of workers, such as writers (San Francisco Writers’ Grotto), technology
entrepreneurs (Tech Ranch in Austin, Texas), and craftspeople (Artisan’s Asylum near Boston), or to workers with certain interests, like rock climbing (Brooklyn Boulders in Somerville, Massachusetts).

Some coworking spaces—such as Chicago’s 1871, a hub for digital entrepreneurs—curate membership based on industry affiliation. 1871 opened in 2012 and occupies 50,000 square feet on the 12th floor of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, and will soon expand with an additional 25,000 square feet. The name 1871 reflects Chicago’s phoenix-like rebirth after the city’s great fire in 1871. The innovation and collaboration that characterized Chicago’s reconstruction likewise guided the coworking facility’s design, led by Todd Heiser,
a design principal at Gensler’s Chicago office. To craft 1871, Heiser’s team explored a variety of collaborative work environments, conferred with intended users, and drew on Chicago’s rich cultural legacy. Today the space houses 250 startups and about 400 total people. Companies that got their start in 1871 include SpotHero, an app that matches people with parking spots, and Caremerge, a company that coordinates healthcare for seniors.

Another curated coworking space, and perhaps the most elite, is New York’s NeueHouse, designed by hospitality firm Rockwell Group. Billed as “a private membership work collective,”
NeueHouse caters to individuals and small companies in the realms of fashion, design, art, film, and publishing. A curation committee screens applicants, handpicking members to assemble a diverse crowd of well-heeled creative professionals. Prices run high: A shared-desk membership at a New York coworking space averages $350 a month, but an equivalent membership at NeueHouse is $1,300. NeueHouse locations will open in Los Angeles and London by the end of 2014.

Alongside these privately owned coworking spaces, large-scale providers are expanding rapidly. Two examples are NextSpace, a coworking provider with nine locations across California, and New York–based WeWork, which has 18 U.S. locations and will have one in London by the year’s end. Impact Hub, formerly Hub, began in London and is now in six continents with 45 locations, 12 of which are in major U.S. cities; 20 more sites are on the way worldwide. While limited in number, such chain providers’ reach and marketing prowess have raised awareness of the coworking trend, contributing to its swift growth in this country and abroad.

Freelancers, small businesses, and beyond
For independent workers, coworking spaces provide a focused, community-driven, and cost-effective environment. In addition to a ready-to-go home base, coworking facilities offer a professional and stable setting to support evolving and established businesses. Members aren’t locked into a long-term lease, so they can relocate and expand as needed. In addition, the built-in community offers much needed emotional and practical support. Some facilities even offer technology and personnel resources to help with everything from search engine optimization to securing health insurance.

While freelancers, contractors, and small-business owners top the list of original advocates, coworking spaces also appeal to others. For some larger organizations, coworking provides an
attractive solution for temporary office space. When the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) sold its building in Washington, D.C., it turned to WeWork to provide an intermediate office.

ASID leadership hesitated to sign a 10-year lease and build out a new space, especially since the organization is in the midst of re-envisioning its future. Three months ago, ASID moved into WeWork in Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown, where it plans to remain for roughly a year and a half as an interim solution while it procures a more permanent office.

“WeWork’s startup mentality has made a tremendous impression on us as we work through the reinvention of ASID,” says Randy Fiser, ASID executive vice president and CEO. He describes the coworking space as a highly stimulating environment for ASID’s team of 25, who work alongside entrepreneurs, designers, and even a hypnotist/magician. In addition to benefiting from the collaborative and innovative atmosphere, Fiser and his colleagues experiment with WeWork’s variety of spaces to determine how they work best—knowledge that will inform the configuration of ASID’s next permanent office. With the learning and social opportunities and the cross-pollination of ideas, “the intrinsic value of our time at WeWork
extends far beyond the financial,” Fiser says.

While ASID’s WeWork adventure is temporary, other firms view coworking as a long-term solution. Designer Dror Benshetrit, founder of Studio Dror, struck an agreement to occupy the top floor of WeWork Soho West in New York. Benshetrit renovated the 13,000-square-foot space, dubbed WeCross, to accommodate a “dream team” of design professionals. His firm of 15 now works alongside 200 potential collaborators, including graphic and interior designers, landscape architects, lighting specialists, animators, IT consultants, and engineers.

“Our relocation to this space was motivated purely by the idea of collaboration,” says Benshetrit. Initial concerns about coworking space, including inconsiderate neighbors and intellectual property protection, were “old-fashioned, and the list of the benefits keeps growing,” he says. Benshetrit envisions this innovative coworking environment as an enduring situation for Studio Dror.

Work-life mash-up
The popularity of coworking goes hand in hand with a shifting attitude toward work. Lois Goodell and Dave Madson, respectively principal and associate principal at CBT Architects in Boston, note the strong push to move beyond the traditional and do things differently. “Inspired by the collegiate model of social interaction and supported by the tech explosion and the recent recession, this entrepreneurial ethic translates into the need for affordable office spaces that are collaborative, focused, and fun,” Goodell says. And as companies look to attract and retain younger talent, coworking spaces highlight attributes that are increasingly in demand—flexibility, interactivity, and mobility.

Contract’s 2011 Designers of the Year, Verda Alexander and Primo Orpilla, principals of the San Francisco–based interior design firm Studio O+A, note that coworking spaces are now influencing the design of corporate offices. To encourage idea sharing and innovation, various corporations are installing coworking-modeled spaces for their own employees to use. Taking it a step further, “some companies intentionally program coworking space for others to occupy,” Alexander says. For example, in Studio O+A’s design for AOL’s West Coast headquarters in Palo Alto, California, the ground floor was earmarked as a coworking space and is now occupied by a Stanford University sponsored incubator.

Moving beyond the workplace proper, coworking spaces are now showing up in residential complexes. At Vara, Studio O+A’s multifamily San Francisco residential project, the lobby contains a coworking area for residents. And interior designer Krista Ninivaggi, Contract’s 2014 Designer of the Year—who has established her own firm, K&CO, in a New York coworking space this year—is designing a similar space within a new Philadelphia multifamily residential project. As she considered many coworking spaces within which to set up her own practice, though, Ninivaggi discovered that many have a downside for interior designers: a lack of space for product samples and large-scale drawings.

The trend of incorporating coworking spaces into the residential realm represents a true blurring of work-life boundaries, and this merger of work and life appears in coworking office design. Devin Vermeulen, WeWork’s creative director, emphasizes the residential aspects of their commercial spaces. “We intend to make you really feel at home, to make
your office as comfortable as your home so you aren’t counting the hours until you leave,” Vermeulen says. “We create flexible and free environments that make workers happier.”

A paradigm shift for business and real estate
As coworking grows in popularity, it will impact not only corporate office design but also real estate in major cities. In addition to creating coworking-like areas in their own offices and coworking spaces for outsiders to occupy, “corporations are realizing that long-term leases and fixed office space, at least at the former scale, are unneeded,” King says.

A few forward-thinking companies now incorporate coworking spaces within their offices to accommodate some employees, using applications such as LiquidSpace—an online marketplace that matches people with open desks. This benefits workers, who can choose where they work.

Companies such as Accenture are doing this, and as a result are reducing overhead by downsizing fixed office space. And businesses with formerly empty space create a source of revenue and a more vibrant work environment. Coworking’s impact extends beyond the consumerization of workspace to the ways we work. “As a culture, we are learning different ways of working—redefining how, when, and where we work,” Ninivaggi says.

An embodiment and a reflection of this new attitude toward work, coworking interiors will influence a new generation’s expectations for the workplace. “We are firm believers that, in terms of business,” Vermeulen says, “coworking is a paradigm shift.”




Coworking: A Workplace Paradigm Shift

22 August, 2014


Where do you work? For most with a desk job, the answer used to be the office, home, or even a coffee shop. Today we have another, increasingly popular option: coworking, a shared work environment for those working independently. Less than a decade ago, coworking appeared as an alternative workplace model. Focused on collaboration and community, coworking has grown rapidly in the intervening years, greatly shaping how we work as well as expectations of workplace interiors.

According to the online coworking magazine Deskmag, the first designated coworking space opened as a nonprofit co-op in San Francisco in 2005. Spurred by a rising independent workforce, a recognized disadvantage of long-term office leases, and a human need for connection, approximately 600 coworking spaces were open by 2010. Steve King of Emergent Research estimates that 3,200 coworking spaces exist globally today, with roughly 1,200 in the United States alone. He predicts that the coworking industry will continue this rapid expansion, growing at a rate of 40 percent annually for the next five years. “That means 12,000 coworking spaces in 2018,” says King, “with one million members across the world.”

Today’s coworking spaces offer members a place to work alone but together, within a collaborative community of like-minded individuals. Coworking spaces vary greatly depending on ownership—either individual or corporate—and intended membership, ranging from general to specialized. Membership commitments are typically month-to-month,
and relaxed, open layouts with informal table arrangements characterize most facilities. In addition to kitchen areas, conference rooms, and dedicated suites, some feature spaces for
different kinds of work—lounges for collaboration, small nooks for contemplation, or booths for private conversations. Amenities such as game stations, meditation rooms, educational events, and regular happy hours add to the coworking interiors’ unique identities.

All shapes and sizes
Most coworking spaces are privately owned, with one or two locations. Some are generalist spaces; Office Nomads in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood and BLANKSPACES, with two sites in Los Angeles, are open to anyone. Other coworking facilities cater to specific kinds of workers, such as writers (San Francisco Writers’ Grotto), technology
entrepreneurs (Tech Ranch in Austin, Texas), and craftspeople (Artisan’s Asylum near Boston), or to workers with certain interests, like rock climbing (Brooklyn Boulders in Somerville, Massachusetts).

Some coworking spaces—such as Chicago’s 1871, a hub for digital entrepreneurs—curate membership based on industry affiliation. 1871 opened in 2012 and occupies 50,000 square feet on the 12th floor of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, and will soon expand with an additional 25,000 square feet. The name 1871 reflects Chicago’s phoenix-like rebirth after the city’s great fire in 1871. The innovation and collaboration that characterized Chicago’s reconstruction likewise guided the coworking facility’s design, led by Todd Heiser,
a design principal at Gensler’s Chicago office. To craft 1871, Heiser’s team explored a variety of collaborative work environments, conferred with intended users, and drew on Chicago’s rich cultural legacy. Today the space houses 250 startups and about 400 total people. Companies that got their start in 1871 include SpotHero, an app that matches people with parking spots, and Caremerge, a company that coordinates healthcare for seniors.

Another curated coworking space, and perhaps the most elite, is New York’s NeueHouse, designed by hospitality firm Rockwell Group. Billed as “a private membership work collective,”
NeueHouse caters to individuals and small companies in the realms of fashion, design, art, film, and publishing. A curation committee screens applicants, handpicking members to assemble a diverse crowd of well-heeled creative professionals. Prices run high: A shared-desk membership at a New York coworking space averages $350 a month, but an equivalent membership at NeueHouse is $1,300. NeueHouse locations will open in Los Angeles and London by the end of 2014.

Alongside these privately owned coworking spaces, large-scale providers are expanding rapidly. Two examples are NextSpace, a coworking provider with nine locations across California, and New York–based WeWork, which has 18 U.S. locations and will have one in London by the year’s end. Impact Hub, formerly Hub, began in London and is now in six continents with 45 locations, 12 of which are in major U.S. cities; 20 more sites are on the way worldwide. While limited in number, such chain providers’ reach and marketing prowess have raised awareness of the coworking trend, contributing to its swift growth in this country and abroad.

Freelancers, small businesses, and beyond
For independent workers, coworking spaces provide a focused, community-driven, and cost-effective environment. In addition to a ready-to-go home base, coworking facilities offer a professional and stable setting to support evolving and established businesses. Members aren’t locked into a long-term lease, so they can relocate and expand as needed. In addition, the built-in community offers much needed emotional and practical support. Some facilities even offer technology and personnel resources to help with everything from search engine optimization to securing health insurance.

While freelancers, contractors, and small-business owners top the list of original advocates, coworking spaces also appeal to others. For some larger organizations, coworking provides an
attractive solution for temporary office space. When the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) sold its building in Washington, D.C., it turned to WeWork to provide an intermediate office.

ASID leadership hesitated to sign a 10-year lease and build out a new space, especially since the organization is in the midst of re-envisioning its future. Three months ago, ASID moved into WeWork in Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown, where it plans to remain for roughly a year and a half as an interim solution while it procures a more permanent office.

“WeWork’s startup mentality has made a tremendous impression on us as we work through the reinvention of ASID,” says Randy Fiser, ASID executive vice president and CEO. He describes the coworking space as a highly stimulating environment for ASID’s team of 25, who work alongside entrepreneurs, designers, and even a hypnotist/magician. In addition to benefiting from the collaborative and innovative atmosphere, Fiser and his colleagues experiment with WeWork’s variety of spaces to determine how they work best—knowledge that will inform the configuration of ASID’s next permanent office. With the learning and social opportunities and the cross-pollination of ideas, “the intrinsic value of our time at WeWork
extends far beyond the financial,” Fiser says.

While ASID’s WeWork adventure is temporary, other firms view coworking as a long-term solution. Designer Dror Benshetrit, founder of Studio Dror, struck an agreement to occupy the top floor of WeWork Soho West in New York. Benshetrit renovated the 13,000-square-foot space, dubbed WeCross, to accommodate a “dream team” of design professionals. His firm of 15 now works alongside 200 potential collaborators, including graphic and interior designers, landscape architects, lighting specialists, animators, IT consultants, and engineers.

“Our relocation to this space was motivated purely by the idea of collaboration,” says Benshetrit. Initial concerns about coworking space, including inconsiderate neighbors and intellectual property protection, were “old-fashioned, and the list of the benefits keeps growing,” he says. Benshetrit envisions this innovative coworking environment as an enduring situation for Studio Dror.

Work-life mash-up
The popularity of coworking goes hand in hand with a shifting attitude toward work. Lois Goodell and Dave Madson, respectively principal and associate principal at CBT Architects in Boston, note the strong push to move beyond the traditional and do things differently. “Inspired by the collegiate model of social interaction and supported by the tech explosion and the recent recession, this entrepreneurial ethic translates into the need for affordable office spaces that are collaborative, focused, and fun,” Goodell says. And as companies look to attract and retain younger talent, coworking spaces highlight attributes that are increasingly in demand—flexibility, interactivity, and mobility.

Contract’s 2011 Designers of the Year, Verda Alexander and Primo Orpilla, principals of the San Francisco–based interior design firm Studio O+A, note that coworking spaces are now influencing the design of corporate offices. To encourage idea sharing and innovation, various corporations are installing coworking-modeled spaces for their own employees to use. Taking it a step further, “some companies intentionally program coworking space for others to occupy,” Alexander says. For example, in Studio O+A’s design for AOL’s West Coast headquarters in Palo Alto, California, the ground floor was earmarked as a coworking space and is now occupied by a Stanford University sponsored incubator.

Moving beyond the workplace proper, coworking spaces are now showing up in residential complexes. At Vara, Studio O+A’s multifamily San Francisco residential project, the lobby contains a coworking area for residents. And interior designer Krista Ninivaggi, Contract’s 2014 Designer of the Year—who has established her own firm, K&CO, in a New York coworking space this year—is designing a similar space within a new Philadelphia multifamily residential project. As she considered many coworking spaces within which to set up her own practice, though, Ninivaggi discovered that many have a downside for interior designers: a lack of space for product samples and large-scale drawings.

The trend of incorporating coworking spaces into the residential realm represents a true blurring of work-life boundaries, and this merger of work and life appears in coworking office design. Devin Vermeulen, WeWork’s creative director, emphasizes the residential aspects of their commercial spaces. “We intend to make you really feel at home, to make
your office as comfortable as your home so you aren’t counting the hours until you leave,” Vermeulen says. “We create flexible and free environments that make workers happier.”

A paradigm shift for business and real estate
As coworking grows in popularity, it will impact not only corporate office design but also real estate in major cities. In addition to creating coworking-like areas in their own offices and coworking spaces for outsiders to occupy, “corporations are realizing that long-term leases and fixed office space, at least at the former scale, are unneeded,” King says.

A few forward-thinking companies now incorporate coworking spaces within their offices to accommodate some employees, using applications such as LiquidSpace—an online marketplace that matches people with open desks. This benefits workers, who can choose where they work.

Companies such as Accenture are doing this, and as a result are reducing overhead by downsizing fixed office space. And businesses with formerly empty space create a source of revenue and a more vibrant work environment. Coworking’s impact extends beyond the consumerization of workspace to the ways we work. “As a culture, we are learning different ways of working—redefining how, when, and where we work,” Ninivaggi says.

An embodiment and a reflection of this new attitude toward work, coworking interiors will influence a new generation’s expectations for the workplace. “We are firm believers that, in terms of business,” Vermeulen says, “coworking is a paradigm shift.”

 


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