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The impact of coworking spaces on workplace design

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The impact of coworking spaces on workplace design
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Swaviman Das, Head of Design - India, Space Matrix

Work culture is rapidly changing, and so are workplaces. Let us see how a robust ecosystem encompassing startups, entrepreneurs and enterprises across the globe is transforming the way businesses function. 

Modern workspaces are synonymous with adaptability and being ergonomically conscious. The office space spectrum is tilting towards a free-flowing and flexible ideology that can work seamlessly for any business model. Since there is a need for office spaces to evolve with our work behaviour, the idea of a shared workspace has now become something of a rage, and it is working up a storm amongst the millennial office-goers. While the western world has dwelled on this concept for quite some time now, galloping economies like India are witnessing some dramatic changes as they welcome themselves into the era of flexible coworking spaces.

 

The growth of coworking spaces

Coworking spaces are reflective of the shifting of our work culture towards something liberating, intuitive and transitional. Smitten with new trends emerging globally, this part of the world has become the hub of action in the business ecosystem. Shifting away from the recent dominance by the West in this area, the Asia-Pacific and Indian subcontinent are no longer just a low-cost resource for human capital but have transformed into a high-growth market with immense future potential. Millennial India is a centre for highly skilled professional talent and has become the favourite destination for MNCs to set up shop. The new-age workforce is coming up with ideas and aspirations of their own, and the region’s physical and financial infrastructure is continually maturing. Our workspaces too, are elevating to suit this transitional mode of working. Currently, there are 300 odd coworking spaces in India spanning across a massive 15 million square feet of area. As the talent pool expands, this demand is only estimated to increase to accommodate more than 13 million people by 2020. And this increased uptake of coworking space is fundamentally influencing the mainstream office design.

 

Coworking spaces and workspace design

Coworking spaces are diverse workspaces with varied forms of conducive micro-environments. Smart minds and designers/architects have turned high population density and space limitations to their advantage by creating dynamic coworking spaces that cater to every aspect of this present volatile work ecosystem. Whether a workspace is shared or not, it is genuinely disrupting the ideology of the way office spaces are being reimagined and built-up.

 

The concept of coworking spaces is built on a business model that encourages people who use the area as members of a community. Therefore, office design needs to be engaging and interactive, with excellent responsiveness and functionality. Besides, there is an air of uncertainty surrounding the way we do business in the current scenario. Change is the only constant as business models evolve rapidly. Dynamic design is based on the needs of its users and takes their perspective into account. Some of the attributes of today’s workspace include flexibility, scalability, and modularity. Coworking spaces work well for entrepreneurs as well as enterprises as both these entities look for places that are convenient and cost-effective. While a traditional office requires infrastructure and can be cost-intensive, coworking spaces have an already established administrative system with shared facilities such as :

 

  • meeting spaces
  • social hubs
  • training/learning facilities
  • open cafeteria
  • event/activity zones
  • incubators
  • co-creation workshops 

 

Another major advantage of coworking spaces is that they can accommodate change, diversity, and expansion. A common work area can house multiple businesses, including growing startups and others at different stages of establishment. For instance, a coworking space can have startups or enterprises with graphic artists, bloggers, content developers, app developers, also companies from sectors like healthcare, IT, infra, advertising and budding entrepreneurs, all running their business under one roof. They all have their way of working, and workspace design needs to cater to all their needs. Another advantage is that these shared offices are multifunctional, reconfigurable and can absorb future changes. Modularity and scalability is an indispensable factor here, as space should cater to the varied needs for every business model. This hotbed of work environment brings together many great minds and serves as a social platform for interaction, transfer of knowledge and sharing of ideas. It not only inspires people but also fosters true collaboration and creativity.

 

Design trends

Office space design has become a new trend in business influenced by the demand for coworking spaces and the millennial desire for freedom of space even at work. The millennial employee no longer wants to be confined to the desk all day. Alternative workspaces offer employees a chance to de-stress besides giving them more space to expand their creativity. Breaking the chains of monotony, these innovative workspaces empower employees to perform to their best capacities. These shared office spaces are being designed to blend into global trends of current times. What’s more, this sort of design strategy is seeping into the traditional office setup as well, as an increasing number of corporates are moving away from the archetypal desk-chair-workstation model. Designers today have started reimagining these workspaces in totality and they no longer remain a derivative of their old. 

Some design innovations we have seen in the last couple of years include thematic social hubs, Live coffee bars, tech-enabled collaborative pockets, phone pods, mobile workstations and use of biophilic elements. Designers have started playing with innovative materials to create diverse and unique environments that are visually appealing, energizing and more productive. Eclectic art forms, comfy residential/ cafe furniture, quirky artifacts and street graffiti are being introduced to create contextual and thematic spaces. 

 

In conclusion

Coworking spaces are the next big thing in the work ecosystem and are greatly influencing the way office space is used. It is transforming both the aesthetics as well as the functional principles of many stereotypical offices. It is not only the startups that are favouring coworking spaces, but mega brands and corporate giants are also using these facilities besides their own areas to give their employees more flexibility and choices. As coworking spaces are widely adopted, they are sure to leave a profound impact on the way workspaces are designed. As for workplace design, the future holds massive possibilities for innovation.

 

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