We call them coworking spaces, remote work centers, shared offices, satellites offices, but in fact, they all cover one unique and shared reality: tomorrow’s workplace will be community-based, open to the world and close from home. Insight in 7 keywords.
Coworking. Born ten years ago in the US, coworking is currently the trendiest of all types of workplaces. A coworking space is a place where people share more than office space: ideas, projects, costumers, passions, hobbies, etc. In France, there are around 40 of them, the most famous being “La Cantine” (Paris, Rennes, Toulouse, Nantes), Soleilles Cowork, Dojocrea, etc.
Remote work center. Brought to the spotlight by the DATAR in 2005 (Organism in charge of land settlement), the remote work center is the “public equivalent” of the coworking space and the concept is almost the same: offer to a city’s inhabitants a place to work remotely from their employer, with other workers who do not belong to the same company. Developed in Europe by non-profit organizations, the concept is already a true success in the Netherlands with the Smart Work Centers network, and is rapidly growing in Belgium.
Sharing. Shared offices consist in businesses renting out their unoccupied workspace to small businesses and freelancers at a very attractive price. It is the continuation of collaborative consumption, applied to office space.
If we look closer, these three new concepts show great similarities and prefigure tomorrow’s workplace. What are their characteristics?
Despacialization. The company’s spatial-temporal framework is collapsing, we are witnessing the end of the “place unity”, time unity and action unity. With the rapid growth of digital tablets, third-party work places and remote work, we are all becoming nomad workers: we can work everywhere and at any moment. Those new workplaces are not sedentary places but places to “stop by”. People go there to work because of the location, but also for the people they can meet there, for the environment; the workplaces switched from being a habit to being a choice.
Interaction with an ecosystem. The times of the one corporation standing in its tower, phallic symbol of power, are over. Businesses are opening to their ecosystem .The workplace is transforming into a melting pot for interacting with partners, customers, suppliers, competitors, etc. Thanks to its porosity, the workplace materializes the shared value creation as Michael Porter (3) has defined it. Corporations will increasingly invest in coworking spaces and open their unused office space to other actors of their ecosystem.
Community. A true community of coworkers is developing around the workplace. For what purpose? Energy. In the Taylorist conception of business, a workplace is the space where workers are gathered, motivated by the manager who distributes and controls. The energy comes from the manager. In a coworking space, the energy comes from the community: exchange, competition, sharing, collaboration, energy, serendipity, etc.
Sustainability. The first goal of remote work centers: build a hyper connected workplace, close from where people live to avoid costly and polluting transports. Welcome to the reign of “working local”. Besides, those new workspaces will allow to fight the very low occupation rate of traditional offices, which is, in addition from being a financial deep, an ecologic non-sense. Indeed, in those new workspaces, office spaces are by essence depersonalized, allowing an adjusted balance between supply and demand. Finally, coworking enables freelancers and entrepreneurs to mutualize heating, light, coffee, printing, etc, and consequently to reduce their consumption of raw materials.
(1) More information on Green and Connected Cities (www.greenandconnectedcities.eu)
(3) More information on Euro Green IT, www.eurogreenit.eu
(4) Creating shared value, Michael E. Porter, Mark R. Kramer, http://hbr.org/2011/01/the-big-idea-creating-shared-value
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