Reconciling the Rise of Coworking and Remote Work
One of the most impressive consequence of technology’s impact on the workplace isn’t just the way in which we get things done – but rather the physical walls of the office itself. The phrase “traditional office” inspires images of cubicles, desk phones, conference rooms and corner offices. However, with the rise of remote work and the gig economy, this image is being replaced by collaborative office designs, coffee shops, or even hotel lobbies. While individual employees are more empowered now than ever, remote work alone isn’t meeting their every need.
Coworking spaces are growing in tandem with remote work and the gig economy. WeWork, WorkBar, Impact Hub – these businesses, and others, are thriving through their ability to provide a sense of community and network to remote employees that traditional offices did 10 years ago. According to research published in Harvard Business Review last year, many full time remote employees are turning to coworking to supplement both social and professional experiences. The study shows that 83 percent of respondents are less lonely since joining a coworking space, and 80 percent turn to other coworking members for help or guidance.
The growing popularity of coworking is evidence in that productivity won’t come from closing down offices altogether or rejecting remote work outright, but rather organizations need to focus on a hybrid approach. Despite the growth of remote work, there remains a clear appetite for the in-person experience. Our Breaking Barriers 2020 research, revealed that 86 percent of employees surveyed believe that face-to-face interaction will always be important. The lesson for businesses that are looking to navigate the delicate balance between offering employees flexibility and in-person communities is to build a culture that fosters both.
For example, in mid-2017 Fuze relocated from a more traditional office environment in Cambridge, MA to a collaborative “Hub” in Boston’s historic Copley Square. The new location (complete with 20 collaborative spaces equipped for global video conferences) was debuted alongside our “Work From Anywhere” policy, which enables employees to build flexible work schedules to fit their unique preferences.
In theory, it might seem counterintuitive that remote work and coworking are simultaneously growing in popularity – as the number of remote workers continues to rise (39 percent to 43 percent between 2012 and 2016), so does the number of co-workers. One forecast slates the coworking community to reach 3.8 million members by 2020. In fact, both the Harvard Business Review study and our Breaking Barriers report show that while the tactics we use to stay productive are changing, fundamental needs are not – like the ability to stay at home with a sick child when needed or taking a break to join colleagues in team building activities. The modern employee doesn’t see community and flexibility as mutually exclusive, but rather key ingredients that support a meaningful work experience.