Co-working: the new normal

Co-working spaces, shared office spaces that are typically used by the self-employed or those working for various different companies, are soaring in popularity the world over.

“So much so,” said Linda Trim, Director at workplace design specialists Giant Leap, “that working in a co-working space is rapidly becoming the new normal even for those who have traditional 9 to 5 jobs.”

Trim noted than there are currently 14 411 co-working spaces around the world today making it fastest growing type of commercial property. Globally, shared workspaces have grown at an rapid rate of 200% over the past five years. In global cities like London, New York and Chicago they are expanding at an annual rate of 20%.

“Co-working places are rapidly becoming the workplace of choice. Globally they are expected to be close on 4-million people who will be members of a co-working office by 2020 and that number is expected to rise to over 5-million by 2022.”

Trim added that in South Africa the trend is not as developed as it is in countries like the US, but is quickly catching on. “In major business nodes like Sandton for example, co-working places are springing up all over. For instance FutureSpace is a high end co-working space that is as appealing as WeWork, the hugely successful American co-working company that has offices in 21 countries.”

Co-working became an attractive concept because when it first started to appear, it countered the negative views of the traditional office of drab interiors with tired people spending their lives in cubicles under harsh neon lights.

“If we look back to just a few years ago, co-working was considered to be a movement or a trend, with many believing it would fade. But now co-working is a full-blown industry that is disrupting the real estate industry and the way people work.

They known for offering environments that are conducive to innovation, collaboration, and productivity. These type of workplaces were pioneers in implementing a human approach to design, a trend which is catching up among real estate developers, landlords and of course companies.

“For now co-working is today’s normal.”

The extent to which co-working has gone mainstream is evidenced in the fact that large companies are increasingly seeking to enhance the workplace experience as a means to attract and retain talent, and that a significant percentage of workers who have the option to work from home or a coffee shop prefer to work from a co-working space.

Said Trim: “By 2020, we expect 50% of large companies to have some form of shared office space to offer their workers.”

She also noted that co-working spaces were having a very positive impact on people. 84% of people who use co-working spaces are more engaged and motivated while 89% who co-work report being happier.

“The co-working phenomenon has also spurred companies to make their existing offices much more people friendly and relaxed,“ Trim noted.

“On many of our briefs now we are told to design something that makes people feel they are in a relaxed environment somewhere between a coffee bar and their lounge at home.”

She added that the growth in co-working spaces will likely remain strong with a forecasted growth rate of 15% over the next 5 years.

Source: My Office Magazine 

Business Incubators: Pros and Cons

Here we’ll take a look at the benefits and downsides of business incubators so you can decide whether joining one is right for your business. But first, we’ll answer the question –

What is an Incubator?

An incubator is an organization designed to help startup businesses grow and succeed by providing free or low-cost workspace, mentorship, expertise, access to investors, and in some cases, working capital in the form of a loan. You’ll work around other entrepreneurial businesses, often with a similar focus as yours.

Joining an incubator is almost like joining a college program: You have to apply, be accepted, and then follow a schedule, meeting benchmarks set by the incubator. You’ll also need to commit to a length of time to be a part of the incubator, typically one to two years.

Incubator Benefits

Based on the definition, you can already see some of the pros an incubator can provide to businesses to get a powerful start. Make sure to research potential incubators carefully to be sure they provide the following benefits:

  • Your incubator should provide a free or low-cost workspace that allows you to reduce overhead while you grow.
  • Look for an incubator that will give your business access to benefits that can help accelerate your business, including office space and services, mentorship, expertise, influence, and sometimes capital.
  • Incubators may also offer business development programming such as workshops and panel discussions.
  • Make sure investors trust the incubator to invest in the right startups and groom them into successful businesses. Joining this type of incubator will give you an advantage when seeking funding.
  • Businesses in some incubators might have access to office must-haves like internet, administrative support, and production equipment. Office services vary from program to program.
  • The structured environment and curriculum of an incubator can help a new business keep focus and grow in the right direction.

Many incubators target specific industries-such as digital education, green technology, homeland security, fashion and food-and thus offer targeted resources and expertise. It’s important to make sure you have a clear understanding of what an incubator provides before applying.

Incubator Downsides

Not all incubators are equal; some provide more or better benefits than others. Here are some potential downsides:

  • The application process can be rigorous and competitive. For most incubators, an applicant is required to submit a detailed business plan and disclose all business activities.
  • Many incubators require a time commitment of around one to two years, plus adherence to the schedule set by the incubator, which can include many trainings and workshops. Yes, you will learn a lot, but you’ll also spend a fair amount of time doing it.
  • For better or worse, an incubator is a professional environment. You can’t simply come and go as you please, and you’ll be expected to answer to someone other than yourself in regards to your progress. Think of an incubator like a boss who is invested in your success.

As you can see, the benefits can be great for the right applicant. Make sure you are willing to dedicate yourself and your business to the program in order to reap the rewards.

How to Choose a Business Incubator

Choosing an incubator for your startup business is a big decision, especially if you’ll be giving up a hefty chunk of time and equity for its resources and expertise. Here is what you should look for in a business incubator before you choose a program:

Incubator Perks

Research the incubator’s offerings to see if they match your needs. Learn what resources and services the company provides. Study the incubator’s mentors and advisers to determine if their expertise, skills, and networks match your business’s needs.

Incubator Curriculum

Many incubators require rigorous training and have strict schedules. Assess the curriculum to make sure it teaches what you need to learn in order for your business to succeed. Make sure you can take it all on while still running daily operations.

Incubator Track Record

How have similar businesses performed with the support of the incubator? If possible, contact alumni for their take on the experience. Most incubators list graduate companies on their websites.

Incubator Cost

How much does it cost to use the workspace and the equipment? If applicable, what are the loan terms offered, or what percentage of equity will the incubator take? Make sure the cost fits with the sacrifice you’re willing to make.

Incubator Location

As previously mentioned, joining an incubator is not unlike joining a college program. Because you’ll be going to class several times per week if not every day, you’ll need to be on campus-that is, in close proximity to the incubator. This may mean relocating to be closer to an incubator if you can’t find the right fit close enough to home.

Find an incubator near you with mySME Space

Source: Accion

8 Things You Should Know About Coworking Space in 2018

A transformative change has taken place in recent years – with the concept of coworking evolving from an alternative to a traditional office lease for start-ups and freelancers to becoming an integral component of bona fide corporate real estate portfolios. Here are eight key concepts for 2018 and beyond.

1. Flexibility is King.

Flexibility tops the list of popular benefits of coworking amongst freelancers, small businesses, and even large enterprises according to Cushman & Wakefield’s market research. Coworking companies provide short-term leases at various square footages, allowing tenants to determine the most appropriate workplace strategy for their business without a long-term obligation. Coworking drives cost efficiency with tenants avoiding the significant upfront capital cost of building out space and the long-term risk of paying for space they do not need.

2. Rapid Growth.

The number of coworking locations worldwide has increased from 1,130 in 2011 to 13,800 in 2017. Over the same period, the number of members has drastically increased from 43,000 to 1.2 million. Current forecasts provided by the largest coworking conference operator GCUC and Emergent Research indicate the number of coworking members will rise to a staggering 3.8 million by 2020 and 5.1 million by 2022.

3. Design Drives Engagement.

The best coworking spaces are immersive and offer captivating design, delivering unexpected elements of fun and comfort. Coworking design benefits businesses by encouraging interactions between customers, which can lead to more formal business relationships. For example, WeWork and Convene have recently introduced design innovations like coffee shops, amenity floors, retail pop-ups, educational institutions, and fitness centers.

4. Connectivity Drives Growth and Innovation.

Coworking spaces generate heightened connectivity amongst different businesses, presenting an opportunity for innovation to occur at the intersection of different disciplines and mirroring the balance between intellectual harmony and tension made famous at AT&T’s Bell Labs in the late 19th century. This historic project employed tactics that would later influence the coworking movement by housing “thinkers and doers” in a shared space, emphasizing an open door policy, and encouraging close physical proximity of diverse professions.

5. A Hotel, a University, and a Home. 

Coworking operations blend the best aspects of a boutique hotel with the social atmosphere of a university and the comforts of a home, under the mantra of “space-as-a-service,” as WeWork’s Head of Product Research Josh Emig describes. Providing personal amenities, hospitality services, individualized spatial design, IT services, and social programming is a critical factor in differentiating coworking brands and one that allows members to solely focus on their professional endeavors.

6. A Cure for Loneliness. 

In recent years, remote workers have increasingly voiced a significant challenge to this workplace concept: loneliness due to a lack of human interaction. Providing a venue for the exchange of human capital by implementing innovative solutions for workplace interaction has set shared space apart from the idea of working remotely. Nearly 83 percent of respondents in an Emergent Researchsurvey about coworking indicated that they are less lonely as a result of joining a coworking space, further proving the growing desire to “work alone together.”

7. The New Venture Myth.

Despite the belief that freelance and independent workers most commonly occupy coworking space, reports indicate that 50 percent of enterprise companies will be involved in the shared space industry by 2020. With 15 percent of the S&P 500 taking up coworking space, companies like Facebook, E&Y, JP Morgan, IBM, and Microsoft signify a market trend that is expected to continue.

8. Where Does the Real Estate Community Stand? 

As WeWork and other coworking companies continue to attract large corporations, traditional landlords and real estate firms are adapting to this industry disruption by shifting their focus toward the employee experience and offering the best qualities of a coworking experience: redeveloped office space, short-term leases, happy hours, and varied workspaces.

Source: Cushman & Wakefield

The Advantages for Coworking

As a freelancer, Startup founder, or digital nomad, you should consider the advantages of coworking when you pick your work environment. Working at home or taking your laptop to a coffee shop might sound like a dream, but for reasons we will introduce later in the article can also be challenging and frustrating. The other solution for those who want to stay away from home or coffee shops would be renting a long-term office space which results in high costs and lack of flexibility. That’s where coworking comes in! A “coworking space” is a place where you can go on a daily basis, sit down at a random table (or a fixed one, in certain places), and enjoy a good internet connection, coffee, a kitchen, and the company of like-minded people. Altogether, it supplies you with an office environment without the necessity of everyone working on the same project, to each his/her own, but together. Those spaces are now becoming common around the world (As the Global Coworking spaces map I am working on proves). As a digital nomad, I have used coworking spaces in more than 30 countries since 2011 and consider it a lifesaver.

It should first be noted that coworking spaces have a few disadvantages and might not be best solution for everyone. This may be especially true for those of you who are happy and productive at home alone, and with high levels of self-discipline. However, most people can benefit greatly from coworking and should at least give it a try, especially since many coworking spaces offer free one-day trials! It should also be noted that as the coworking trend grows, there are more and more different types of coworking spaces so you should make sure you browse and test most spaces in your location to get a perfect fit.

Without further ado, here are some of the main advantages of coworking:

  • Separating Work from Home. If you work from home, there’s no real accountability. It’s too easy to get distracted by your bed, your TV, and fridge and lose valuable time. In addition to that, family related chores will always present themselves since if you are at home, you must be available… The separation of work from home is important for many of us and also allows you to breath some fresh air and feel alive instead of spending most of your day at home.
  • Enhancing your Effectiveness. Research shows that people who use coworking spaces are more effective due to the energy and mindset adjustment that is generated by the interaction and acountability a coworking environment creates. That means that the financial costs of using a coworking space are much lower than the financial benefits it creates.
  • Avoid loneliness and get Inspired from Like-Minded People: Working alone is isolating and can affect your mood. Having coworkers and interaction is covering a social need. The idea at a coworking space is that although you are working by yourself, you are surrounded by awesome people. The members of the coworking space have picked a unique and independent lifestyle just like you, and those are exactly the kind of people you want to be surrounded by. Coworking simply makes your day more energizing, fun and happy.
  • Create an amazing network- Coworking spaces will boost your network and in turn connect you with the most relevant people for your business, from potential clients, suppliers or even business partners. In coworking spaces you are guaranteed to meet high quality, talented, and like minded people to add to your network that might become critical for your business.
  • Making you Take Yourself (and your Business) Seriously. This one is a little deep, so let’s start with an example: It is a common recommendation to work at home with clothes you would wear at the office. Working with flip-flops in your pajamas usually decreases your productivity as you are signaling to yourself that you are not in work mode. Using a coworking space will make you aware of your appearance and clothing, and taking the time to walk/drive to your place in addition to the money you spend on it will remind you that your work is important enough to take it seriously and value your time and skills.
  • Improving your Social Life: One of the biggest drawbacks of leaving a 9-to-5 job is missing out on the best source of meeting new people, your office. Jobs provide us with a major source of new friends, and once you leave your work this source is depleted. A coworking place allows you to fill in the gaps and make new friends with interesting people in new places.
  • Reducing Uncertainty: Most of us working remotely will try Finding the Perfect Coffee Shop to Work with a Laptop as a Digital Nomad. This can create some uncertainty and frustration, since you will find yourself running from one coffee shop to another hoping that today it won’t be too crowded or loud and that the internet is going to work. In case you have to make calls, the noise in coffee shops can be frustrating to you and the people around you. Coworking spaces usually have isolated Skype booths and conference rooms for you to use. Some other reliable advantages of coworking spaces over coffee shops include access 24 hours a day (in case you are on a deadline or have a crazy schedule), and free printing (always valuable). In general, uncertainty takes time and energy that could have been put toward working for your clients, and it makes you feel less happy in general. Coworking provides your life with stability.
  • Impressing your Network. Coworking spaces are a great option to conduct important meetings with your clients and associates since they offer conference rooms which are usually free for members. It makes a much better impression to invite people to a coworking room than to your home or a coffee shop and will show how serious and dedicated you are to your trade.
  • Reducing Costs & Adding Flexibility. In case you have decided that it is time to get an office, a coworking space makes a lot more financial sense than renting your own office. Renting an office includes taking care of installing infrastructure and taking care of utility bills that drain cash and time. The staff in the coworking space will take care of that for everyone. Also, regular office rental requires signing long term contracts, usually for a minimum period of one year. Coworking spaces allow you to rent your Table or even a room for a few days, weeks or a month and allow you to focus on what counts: Your work.
  • Accessible expert help when needed. Coworking spaces gather the best minds, each expert in their own field. After you dedicate some time to build your social network in the coworking space, you can approach your expert friends for high quality advice on a wide range of topics like social media and digital marketing, programming, design and much more. The synergies and mutual help of one member to another is invaluable.
  • Emotional support. Most of us leaving the 9-5 lifestyle are also working on a startup or starting to freelance. Both activities are entrepreneurial and have many ups and downs. It might even create pressure on you by family and friends to return to the “safe zone” and work as an employee again. Surrounding yourself by fellow entrepreneurs and freelancers while working in a coworking space will give you the boost to continue pushing forward while receiving and giving emotional support to your fellow coworkers.
  • Build a team. Scaling and truly become successful usually involves working with others. There will be a time when it will make sense to slowly building a team and hiring a person to help your business grow. In some situations you can hire someone to hire remotely, but let’s be 100% honest, nothing beats working togehter in the same physical space. A coworking space allows you to invite another person to work with you without the need to rent a dedicated office. As your team grows, many coworking spaces also offer the option to rent a team room which helps your team to focus working on your projects while also enjoying the interaction and perks outside of your dedicated room.
  • Education opportunity and events. Most coworking spcaes are organizing events as a critical way to both increase revenue and market themselves. That means that as a coworking member, you will have fast and easy access (mostly free) to interesting events and education opportunities ranging from lectures about entrepreneurship and startups, to yoga sessions!
  • Travel the world. Once you adapt to the coworking lifestyle, you will find it very easy to travel between locations and even adapt a life of a digital nomad. All you need is to make that there is a coworking space where you travel to, and you are set to go! Speaking about Coworking around the globe, here is a coworking directory with more than 7,000 spaces called Coworker that I frequently use to find a perfect coworking spot in my travels.
  • Helping you Work in Comfort. Free coffee, fridges, microwaves. You often save money in this kind of working environment because unlike a cafe where your small costs add up without you noticing, a coworking space lets you know what you will pay upfront (coworking will probably be cheaper than three Starbucks coffees per day). Coworking spaces usually offer lockers, as well, which gives you another place to store your stuff safely in case you need to go somewhere during the day.

In summary, coworking is a great solution, and will no doubt shape a lot of the future labor market. For many nomads, the advantages of coworking are life-saving in terms of increasing effectiveness and meeting new people.

Source: Become Nomad

Workplace trends to expect in South Africa in 2018

DURBAN – Offices are moving from being functional spaces to being more people friendly.

Emma Leith, Interior Decorator at the workplace specialists Giant Leap, has shared the top 5 workplace trends that we can expect to see in South African offices next year.
Dynamic Workplaces Layouts
Leith said that multi-functional community space is an office trend that has been around for some time. This is an increasing favoured workspace layout that accommodates needs that are constantly changing. This allows people to have more fluidity, mobility and flexibility in the workplace.
This trend can be seen in the form of modular, lightweight furniture, work benches and sit-stand desks. More businesses, particularly those with greater creative operative functions are forming inspiring, unconventional work zones like yoga or rooms for meditation and lounges for important meetings.
Communal spaces are becoming an important part of the workplace where people can get together for an informal meeting, enjoy a cup of coffee alone or collaborate across teams.
A New Level Of Comfort In The Workplace
Office fit outs are about creating a home away from home feeling. This is done by providing cosy, welcoming lounges, communal canteens, and comfy break-out areas.
This helps make the working environment better which helps to make employees feel more comfortable and valued. Furniture that is used in most residential settings is now being used in office spaces, that ultimately create a warm, eclectic, never-want-to-leave-the-office feeling.
Leith said that the popularity of the trend growing in 2018 as millennials who are pushing this trend are resisting old ways of working.
Some Peace and Quiet
The trend towards open plan offices also creates the need for private areas or pods to allow for concentration or privacy.
Leith said that private pods are needed whether it has a quiet phone call, meeting or place to work with no disturbances. Therefore a combination of spaces is important in the modern workplace.  Private areas can be an innovatively designed telephone booth, a soundproof focus room or soundproof space dividers.
Bringing The Outside In 
A biophilic design which focuses on peoples’ innate love of nature, is a trend that will be seen a lot in 2018 according to Leith.
People want to see more natural elements in their environment as the average person spends 90% of their time indoors. Nature is a major influential factor when considering the design of a building. The elements of nature are being brought into buildings using textures, patterns, natural lighting and live plants.
Wellness in the Workspace
Wellness programmes encourage physical and mental health. Work gyms, showers and breakout areas that provide complimentary healthy refreshments are some of the few offerings that can create greater employee satisfaction.
The office space is heading towards exciting things next year as companies get innovative in their way of thinking said, Leith.

Reconsidering open‑plan – new thinking on productive space

Open-plan offices have become the norm for many companies wishing to optimise their space, encourage collaboration between staff and break down traditional hierarchies.

However, recent research challenges the idea that open-plan working is a surefire route to productivity. Far from an antidote to the inefficiency of closed-off offices, open-plan working can mean staff are beleaguered with distractions and stifled by lack of personal space.

Gensler’s 2016 Workplace Survey found that 67 per cent of the UK workforce feel drained at the end of each working day due to their office environment. In addition, badly designed offices are suppressing innovation in businesses: although over eight million UK employees work in open-plan environments, many of these do not offer variety or choice, nor are they tailored to specific tasks and practices.

“Enclosed office space is not the enemy,” says Philip Tidd at Gensler. “Moving to a simplistic open-plan may not be the most effective option in today’s hyper-connected workplace.”

Distraction and dissatisfaction

Dr Nicola J Millard, who combines psychology and futurology to make insights into ways of working at BT, also believes traditional open-plan offices to be inefficient. In her white paper Workshift: The Death of Dolly, Dilbert and Doctor No, Millard argues that we are disturbed constantly in the office – every three minutes to be precise – and much of that is due to office design.

“Open-plan offices are a one-size-fits-all model which actually fits nobody,” Millard explained at a recent New Scientist Live conference. “We’re interrupted every three minutes. It takes us between eight and 20 minutes to get back into that thought process. Email. We get too much. Meetings, colleagues. It’s all distracting.”

A 2013 study from University of Sydney researchers, Workspace satisfaction: The privacy-communication trade-off in open-plan offices, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, states that uncontrollable noise and loss of privacy are the main sources of workplace dissatisfaction in open-plan offices.

“Open-plan office layouts have been touted as a way to boost workplace satisfaction and team effectiveness in recent years,” said author Jungsoo Kim. “We found people in open-plan offices were less satisfied with their workplace environment than those in private offices. The benefits of being close to co-workers in open-plan offices were offset by factors such as increased noise and less privacy.”

Productivity down, absenteeism up

Furthermore, a BBC report from January 2017 found that employees in open-plan offices were 15 per cent less productive than those working in cubicles and twice as likely to get sick, since diseases are more easily transmitted by workers in an open-plan office. This can lead to higher rates of absenteeism.

Speaking with the BBC, Sally Augustin, an environmental and design psychologist at Design with Science in Illinois, said although we can work in busy spaces, our best work is done when we have total focus: “It’s a shame to waste people by not giving them a place that supports what they actually do.”

The benefits

That’s not to say open-plan working is without its benefits. Such offices can deliver cost savings – as much as 50 per cent less per employee than more traditional office layouts according to the Wall Street Journal – and reduced carbon footprint. And there are more opportunities to socialise, work in teams or get help from colleagues.

Employers can more easily reconfigure an open-plan space, compared with distinct smaller offices, even potentially sub-letting space to another business.

Rather than doing away with the traditional office, evidence shows that employers need to focus on offering flexible working environments, tailored to different tasks, ways of working and employee preferences. Gensler says that effective workplaces must support the needs of individuals and teams, with a balanced environment of spaces for concentration and collaboration. “You need to do what is right for your particular business and the way your employees need to work,” Tidd explains. “Getting the balance right will have a noticeable impact on the productivity, creativity and innovation of employees.”

Space to think

Companies such as Microsoft are investing in a mix of open and private areas, with separate quiet spaces or soundproofed focus rooms available for concentration or phone calls when needed. “The world has put all the focus on collaboration with people thrown in a big room together, but you have to be more thoughtful than that,” says Martha Clarkson, Microsoft’s global workplace strategist. “When you put people in a communal environment, it won’t work if you don’t provide privacy. They need alternative spaces for thinking time, whether it’s focus rooms, lounges, patios or outside walking areas.”

Dr Millard also believes in the need for a balance between ‘we’ and ‘me’ and a greater variety of options for how people can work. She refers to a growing trend of something between the home and the office, nicknamed the ‘coffice’ – spaces offering pleasant working environments as well as company and connectivity, from informal coffee shops and hotel foyers to more formal work hubs with all the amenities of an office. “I think we will start to embrace ‘the coffice’,” she says. “I need good coffee, connectivity, cake, my Wi-Fi wings to fly me into the cloud. I like company. The ‘coffice’ could be a coffee shop or a hotel lobby.”

In lieu of an alternative to the open-plan concept your business has embraced, you can also find innovative ways to avoid distraction or navigate the open working environment. Aid your concentration levels by avoiding long periods sitting still at your desk: take a brisk walk or do a lunchtime class, or find a more private spot in the office. As a last resort, invest in some strong coffee or even prominent noise-cancelling headphones, if only to send a strong signal to colleagues that you need more than three minutes without interruption to get your work done.

Source: Regus

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