Millennials have already begun reimagining the workplace to better fit their needs. One way this generation has shaken things up is through coworking, a relatively recent phenomenon that allows freelancers to enjoy the benefits of working in an office alongside the advantages of being an independent worker.
It’s a wonderful, mutualistic relationship at first glance: Coworking startups are finding success by offering their colleagues and communities a fun, affordable, and collaborative space to work (and usually, a host of dope amenities).
But there’s a problem brewing just under the surface of the coworking world, and it has to do with productivity and long-term sustainability.
At their best, these spaces are alive with synergy and the collaboration of strangers who become colleagues. And at their worst, coworking spaces can be well-meaning but distracting productivity killers. Countless perks (hello, bocce ball court!), interesting people, and the constant bustle of creative minds at work can make it tough to stay on-task.
Is it sustainable?
Many are now asking, “Are coworking spaces becoming more of a hangout destination than a space to actually get things done?”
First, it’s important to consider that all spaces are not equal—Regus is known for primarily catering to executives, while WeWork focuses on creative individuals offering their services on a freelance basis. Jay Suites is an amalgam of both, preferring to offer coworking space to people across the board.
Differences aside, all coworking spaces are filled with customers who have tasks that need to be completed. So how do these distinctly different spaces ensure their customers a distraction-free, productivity-geared environment? Most don’t, and if that doesn’t change, the long-term sustainability of the coworking industry could be bleak.
Amenities, productivity, or both?
If a freelancer finds a great coworking space with amazing amenities and a great group of people, it’s love at first sight. But look further down the road. If little distractions prevent this person from doing their best work each day, they’ll notice the drop in productivity and could become discouraged.
They might even point the finger at coworking—“You made me do this, with your limitless almond lattes and never-ending parade of interesting entrepreneurs! I knew I should’ve just stayed home!”
One way Michael Rutledge, VP of Business Development at a successful group of coworking spaces across New York City, addresses this problem is by offering private, soundproof suites to those who need to put their nose to the grindstone.
He notes, “A lot of coworking spaces focus on the thrill of amenities. But when it comes down to it, work still needs to be completed. We offer the same amenities as many other places, but we also place focus on productivity and helping make sure our customers succeed in their endeavors.”
It’s true that established companies like WeWork have forecasted growth, continued interest in coworking (and boosts in their own profits), but not everyone is equally optimistic. Without a renewed focus on productivity and the – work part of coworking, amenity-centered spaces face an uncertain future.
What are your thoughts on the future of coworking? How do you see the industry adapting to fit shifting consumer needs?
Image credit: CC by David Spinks