Development Magazine Spring 2014

Development - Ownership

Coworking Centers Revolutionize the Workplace

Workbar – a 30,000-square-foot coworking center in Cambridge, Mass., that features open and dedicated seating, offices, and meeting space — is one of the projects profiled in “Workplace Innovation Today: The Coworking Center.”

Coworking, a new concept emerging from a foundation of innovative workspaces that stretches back more than five decades, is revolutionizing the concept of workplace. All indicators point to the continued growth and diversification of coworking centers, which also are beginning to influence the functions and facilities of mainstream corporate workplaces.

A recent report prepared for and funded by the NAIOP Research Foundation — written by Andrea P. Foertsch, founder and principal of Disruptive Space and Melrose Real Estate Strategies and a visiting lecturer in the Baker Program in Real Estate at Cornell University — provides an overview of earlier innovative workplaces, including incubators, innovation centers and accelerators. It then 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. The report also contains five case profiles of coworking centers.

According to “Workplace Innovation Today: The Coworking Center,” “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) 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.”

“Like prior innovative workplace models, coworking centers can be assets to commercial property owners, as both tenants and as generators of spinoff companies that may become future tenants,” the report continues. “Coworking is just getting started as a workplace movement, and awareness of opportunities in this shift in workplace identity can benefit building owners, whether they choose to actively cultivate coworking centers as tenants or simply become more alert to them as a new, unique group of potential tenants as leasing opportunities arise.” Of even greater significance to the real estate development community is the way in which changes in how and where current and future workers do their jobs will influence the locations and configurations of future offices.

For more information:

Workplace Innovation Today: The Coworking Center,” by Andrea P. Foertsch, NAIOP Research Foundation, December 2013

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