The coworking revolution

Are we falling out of love with the humble desk?

The workspace has changed dramatically since the pandemic forced businesses into new ways of working. While employers continue experimenting with various designs of hybrid working and coworking offices, there is still much to understand about delivering an engaging work environment for all people, regardless of location. The days of endless pods and partitions in open-plan offices are thankfully becoming a thing of the past.  However, this means that space is no longer being used as efficiently as before.  Companies can no longer accommodate their entire workforce all being in the office at the same time. As a guide, we see office designs delivering one desk for every three people.  This works well when teams engage together on specific office days only.

Redefining workspace dynamics; balancing flexibility and efficiency

This method brings a new challenge to bosses seeking to evaluate their space requirements; do they need the same space but used differently with breakout zones, coffee bars and sofas or do they require less space? In reality, it is both. So what exactly is the future of coworking and indeed the future of office spaces? The modern workspace must be an enjoyable workplace that encourages collaboration.  It must step away from the confines of the traditional open-plan office design. What is clear is that people like to choose the way they work. Some like to work on a tall desk with stool, others prefer a shared table, with their headphones, sofas and armchairs are well-used for informal discussions. Whatever the preference, when you walk around a coworking space, you will always see a great blend of working styles being enjoyed. The addition of small, single-user working booths are proving surprisingly popular with staff.  Some may require a quiet environment to concentrate, attend online meetings or do not wish to disturb colleagues.

Beyond the desk; rethinking workspace essentials

You may notice that I have not yet used the word we most associate with an office: the desk. For centuries the desk has been the centre of working life in offices, institutions, schools and even the newsroom. Now, the supremacy of the desk is clearly waning. It is being usurped by tables, benches, pods and booths. With coworking offices, hot-desking and flexible workspaces, we are no longer able to dedicate one drawer for staples, paperclips, post-it notes and the tatty stress ball given by a supplier many moons ago. There is no drawer for our snacks, charger cables and hole punch. Nor is the bottom drawer exclusively used for the files and bits that have no home and are better out of sight. The workspace is now often a shared place.  It’s yours for the hour, morning or day but someone else will call it theirs tomorrow. Drawers are replaced by smart lockers next to smart bike racks alongside smart coffee machines. These occupy a corner of the workspace where the receptionist once used to sit.

Embracing the future of office spaces

But I don’t mourn the loss of status for the desk. A place that offers the same view everyday with the same desk-neighbour. Not forgetting the annoying mass of cables tangled in the wheels of the chair and the dust. I love arriving at a vibrant workspace and deciding where to sit, choosing whether I want a mochaccino or a Chai Latte. Then parking myself at the buzzing big table in the centre of the floor or the quiet stool in the corner with a great view. My life is now decluttered and tidied every day into my rucksack. I neither print nor store the reams of paper like I used to, but send my documents to the one machine that does everything for everyone. It does not jam, nor does it run out of toner just as I need it. I like that I can often push a button to raise or lower my work area. My chair is never worn out and my pen pot is no longer there to be raided. I appreciate that everyone around me is working in the same way.  We accept the noise and buzz or the silence and hum of the air conditioning system in equal measure.

Unlocking collaboration; The coworking revolution

Coworking offices work. They build communities across the members and provide for a truly engaging and dynamic workspace with old friends and fresh faces a constant. There’re no territorial disputes as we share.  When we need to collaborate as a team, we either book ourselves a meeting room or gather around the sofas and talk freely. Fellow members overhear and comment, often with some valuable insight. A coworking space adapts to your needs. It delivers vibrancy and noise when you want it.  It encourages collaboration and can provide you with the sanctuary of walls and silence when you need to get your head down and focus. A desk is a fixed place, a territory to be marked, defended and cluttered. It will still serve us for many more years, but it will become more of a novelty than ever and we’ll soon crave the clean, fresh choices that coworking offices offer.

To continue the conversation, discover more about the future of coworking and how to improve your workspace, I highly recommend reaching out to CCC, Maura or Scot here at iwGROUP.

Chris Burfield, Joint CEO, iwGROUP