Report: U.S. Leads Trend Toward a More Innovative, Independent Workplace

It may be too soon to wave goodbye to the cubicle, but a new trend toward a more open and innovative workplace is sweeping America and the globe. It is called “coworking,” where workers share the same roof but not necessarily the same boss. Different from office hoteling, co-working centers bring together a diverse array of freelancers, entrepreneurs, programmers, app developers, startups, and anyone else who wants reliable Wi-Fi and a chance to socialize and exchange ideas with other professionals. Like those who use them, the centers themselves are very different from a traditional office environment, featuring large, central open spaces filled with couches, coffee tables, and casual furniture, with private phone booths and a handful of doored-offices around the perimeter.

“This changes the old line that it’s just another day at the office. America has always been the land of innovation, and we are seeing that in commercial real estate like never before,” says Thomas Bisacquino, president and CEO of NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association. “Coworking centers will never replace conventional office settings, but our industry is responding to the growing demand for a different kind of workplace, and we’re excited about what that means for future development and investment. The more Americans enjoy their workplace, the better it is for our economy and quality of life.”

Key Facts about Coworking:

    · U.S. coworking centers have grown from just 1 in 2005 to 781 in 2013
    · The U.S. leads the world in the number of coworking spaces
    · New York has the most coworking spaces of all cities (73)
    · Coworking membership increased 117 percent from 2012-2013
    · Coworking spaces increased 83 percent from 2012-2013
    · 79 percent of dedicated coworking facilities are individual, local operations

A confluence of technological, demographic and cultural influences has fueled rapid transformation in the workplace. The Internet, social media and Wi-Fi have profoundly affected workplace communications as well as workplace flexibility. Reliance on this technology has produced a generation of young workers (the millennials, also known as Generation Y and echo boomers) who expect continuous, personal access to information in real time rather than on a prescribed schedule. They increasingly insist on sharing information in an open-sourced, nonhierarchical way. As a result, they expect a workplace with no doors or even walls, no set hours and few professional boundaries. While some corporations have viewed this as untenable, others have seen it as an opportunity to create more economical, collaborative and user-intensive workplaces. And freelancers and entrepreneurs who work outside of traditional companies have viewed it as an opportunity to create coworking centers — entirely new workplaces to serve this generation’s independent workers and small businesses.

Spurred by economic development interests, today’s innovative workplaces are born out of several generations of private and public sector-sponsored business stimulation efforts. Incubators began the trend, leading to the development of accelerators, innovation centers, and coworking centers. The latest evolution is the coworking center, whose rapid growth and varied incarnations promise to make it the most influential type of alternative workplace of all.

As a result of these technological and social forces, within the past five years the coworking concept has emerged to meet the needs of independent innovators and small businesses. It has become the largest of the innovation workplace movements. The versatile concept has taken innovative workplaces to the next level, offering a membership-based workplace solution that provides independent workers with both a community and a place where they can focus on productivity.

Coworking is revolutionizing the concept of workplace; this report offers a detailed description of the coworking center, which is defined by three elements: 1) multifunctional working/learning/social space, 2) a mixture of designated and undesignated seating and 3) participation by membership.

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