In this series so far, I have challenged financial services leaders to start thinking about what the future workplace is going to look like. I spoke about how smart technologies are enabling smart offices, and what the implications are for talent and organization.

The world of work is changing. With the rise of the freelance economy, rapid advances in technology and the war to attract top talent, business leaders need to create workspaces that will meet all the needs of the future workforce.

In this post, I want us to look at a phenomenon that has already transformed how we perform our work—co-working spaces—as a starting point to imagine what will come next.

What are co-working spaces?

The Harvard Business Review defines co-working spaces as “membership-based workspaces where diverse groups of freelancers, remote workers, and other independent professionals work together in a shared, communal setting”.

Where freelancers once worked from coffee shops, libraries or other public spaces with free wi-fi, today we have exciting co-working spaces popping up all over the world. Tech companies like Facebook and Google have been creating co-working spaces for years, and reaping the benefits of improved worker happiness and productivity. Facebook, Yahoo, Samsung—they’ve all been investing in research on how space can boost productivity, make people happier, and allow them to thrive in their work.

We just have to look at the rise of WeWork to understand exactly how co-working spaces can boost people’s productivity and work/life balance. And the same can be said of any co-working space in any city in the world, whether it’s powered by startups, tech companies, or individuals. When like-minded people come together in an agile workspace and take ownership of their work, magic happens.

In June 2018 WeWork, with 250 000 members in 72 cities worldwide, was valued at $20 billion. It provides co-working space to startups, freelancers, and global corporations. In an article for Wired, writer Victoria Turk explored the rise of the startup and why it’s been so successful. You can read the interview here.

How do co-working spaces help people thrive at work?

What does it mean to thrive in the workplace? The Harvard Business Review states that to thrive, employees want two things:

  • To experience vitality: the feeling of being alive, passionate and excited; and
  • The opportunity to learn, to gain new knowledge and skills.

HBR research shows that co-working spaces help employees thrive more than traditional office spaces do, for the following three reasons:

  1. Employees in a co-working space feel a sense of community and belonging—with the potential for interacting with like-minded people in a similar profession that you won’t necessarily meet at a coffee shop.
  2. They see their work as more meaningful—they generally choose the kind of projects they wish to do, and they’re part of a larger culture of collaboration.
  3. They have more control and autonomy over their work, and the flexibility allows them to create their own structure.

Co-working spaces are not just for freelancers anymore, either. Global corporations are embracing the co-working office space as well.

As you start to imagine the workplace of the future, what lessons from co-working spaces can you apply to your own workplace? How can you use the benefits of a co-working space—more control and autonomy, meaningful work, community and belonging—in your company to help your employees be happy and productive?

In my next post, I’ll talk about how introverts might fare in the future workplace. To find out more about digital HR in financial services or to join us at the Change Directors Forum and People Innovation Forum in London, please contact me here or on Twitter @knott_nic.

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