Moving Beyond Co-Working Spaces

By Vickey Li | July 05, 2022

Three days out of the week, I would come to check in on the co-working space I had founded, OnePiece Work. I would arrive to find – particularly on the busiest days – the meeting rooms completely booked (from 7am to 7pm, without reprieve), phone booths perpetually occupied, and, by the end of the day, coffee running dangerously low. But I knew the near 100% occupancy we enjoyed at the time wasn’t sustainable – companies currently occupying the space would move out, onto what I presumed were greener pastures.

Where did they move to, I would wonder? And what exactly did they need – and want – as they grew in size and scope?

I discovered that when young companies grow to more than 15 people, they begin to look beyond the confines of co-working spaces. Notably, though, it isn’t their increasing size that usually prompts the change. The central issue, rather, tends to be one of culture.

To fully understand why these companies move beyond co-working spaces, we must first recognize the seismic impact that such spaces have had on the modern workplace. In no uncertain terms, co-working spaces have fundamentally changed the scope of what an office can be, primarily by fostering communal, collaborative atmospheres stocked full of hospitality services. They have pushed companies to think differently about workplace design.

Traditionally, a company would use workplace strategy to inform design, ask an architect to plan and build that vision, hire an office manager to shop for amenities, and then move in their employees. But today, companies have shifted to an experience-driven focus: planning spaces around the kinds of experiences they envision as the foundation for internal culture. Companies now want to go beyond the hospitable and social ambiance of a co-working space by building upon it – making it part of a broader experience unique to their company’s culture and the environment they’re trying to foster for employees.

I see it in Silicon Valley every day. Today’s tech firms use their office environments as tools to recruit, retain, inspire, and energize their employees. They want unique offices that are reflective of their ethos, and that use culture to drive productivity, increase employee engagement, and attract and retain staff.

The overall shift can be broken down into three distinct categories:

1. Hospitality

Office Manager is one of the most sought-after positions on Linkedin. However, where once this role was limited to providing administrative support, it increasingly requires a background in hospitality training, experience with organizing wellness events and employee offsites, and skills in managing amenities. It’s a clear sign that companies want to spend valuable resources in treating their employees the way they ought to be treated. Hospitality is no longer a term exclusively relegated to the hotel industry, rather a part of every day experiences including how and where we work.

2. Process

Companies used to spend a long time trying to find the perfect office space, largely because the lease would be for a 5 to 10-year term. They took the time to painstakingly tour, source, negotiate, set up, move in, and pay a wide range of vendors' bills. Today, however, growing companies will spend no more than 3 months on a flexible office decision, particularly when considering multiple hubs. They prefer the process of finding and renting a co-working space, wherein sourcing, negotiation and management are part of a smooth, all-in-one deal.

3. Purpose

Workplaces, from their physical set-ups to amenities, no longer serve a purely functional purpose. They are an integral part of a company’s overall experience and culture – its value proposition itself. Take the Google cafeteria as an example. Where at its surface it may seem like a simple perk for employees, the aim was to foster employee togetherness and camaraderie – establishing alignment and loyalty to the larger goals of the company.

The world of traditional, commercial real estate must adapt— and quickly— to these changing trends in the market as growing companies look for new workplaces. With forward thinking solutions like Veery, I am hopeful that we can accommodate these needs.

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