The first thing that comes to one’s mind on hearing about the concept of co-working space is flexibility. These shared office spaces are an abundant source of flexibility, as they offer a soothing working experience coupled with enhanced networking opportunities. Co-working space essentially is a mixed pool of working class belonging to different organizations, but working at a common place. Co-working spaces tend to foster a community under its common roof, which gives rise to a more vibrant working ecosystem. They stand as bold torch-bearers to the changing times that the corporate culture is witnessing, at present. As a ‘trend bucker’, these spaces intend to build a sustainable framework going forward and challenge the status quo. Having said, the other side of the room, does have some challenges seated, which can dent the future of the flexi-spaces.
Serving the gig economy:
The co-working spaces are a perfect place for the gig economy workers to get together and go about their work. Of late, there has been a visible surge in the gig economy personnel, with even the engineering and MBA graduates opting for the concerned economy, due to high degree of flexibility. These spaces are an appropriate medium through which the freelancer community can extend its leads and keep the informal sector hunky dory.
Lifeline for the real estate sector:
With stalled projects and weak demand, the Indian realty sector is perhaps facing the worst of its times. Co-working spaces is providing the much needed support to the faltering sector, with the demand of such spaces on an ascent. Q1 2019 witnessed a whopping 277% increase in flexible space take up on a year-on-year basis. The co-working segment is also subject to robust innovations, as new entrants have differentiated service offering on the table.
These players can be viewed as culture blenders, as they bring along different business ventures, belonging to varied industries under one roof, quite literally. Speaking from an Indian context, this seems to be an important virtue in place, since the Indian economy is so rich in culture. This sort of an activity is an open floor for the innovators to grab the opportunity and make their worth count.
A third party server management, more often than not raises concerns over the security of the processed data by different personnel. Companies dealing with sensitive data need to be extra vigilant with the handling of the same, as any occurrence otherwise can pose serious threats to the existence of these companies.
According to CBRE Research Report 2018, 40% of the survey respondents claimed that they faced the issue of privacy and more specifically client privacy. This to a certain extent can be termed palpable but is a major deterrent in the progress of co-working spaces. There needs to be clear drawing of line, involving work ethics and other business tangents in order to maintain the sanctity of operations.
The players who operate in the same industry and under the same roof of the co-working spaces, face an acute problem of brand intermixing. There is sharing of work procedures and styles, which leads to mingling of brand offerings and can happen even if it is not willful on the ends of the business ventures.
The Covid-19 impact on co-working spaces:
The current virus outbreak has managed to impact each and every component of the economy, compelling them to kneel down and seek mercy. The co-working spaces segment is said to have contracted the virus too, with the footfall slash to the proximity of 50%. These spaces find themselves to be in a corner, with demand on a slippery slope. At present, these ventures face unusual demand from the clients, with bookings witnessing a paradigm shift of monthly to hourly basis. This is a no brainer that the concerned industry will have to face the heat to a greater extent, since it’s a nomenclature of social mixing.
My take on co-working spaces:
I feel that the co-working space industry is highly under-utilized basis the current scenario. These flexi-spaces are a strong foundation for enhanced working environment, providing an informal shape to the corporate vessel. One general consensus that needs to be broken is that large MNCs overlook them. The actual picture is just the opposite. The Economic Times in 2018 reported that, out of the 12-16 million seats of market size in the specific year, close to 10.3 million of them were grabbed by big corporate houses, conveying the much needed message. I also see these spaces as a prospective source for niche offering. When I say niche offerings, it’s more towards differentiating one’s setup from the competitors. They can be in the form of dedicated spaces for women entrepreneurs, tech-minds, e-commerce and so on. One red flag which my assessment brings out is the problem of rotational clientele for such players. In majority of the cases, the co-working spaces are unable to hold their customers for long and are subject to small or specific project purposes. Therefore, something for us to ponder upon- how can these ventures innovate in order to sit comfortably in the long-run?