“Combination of a well-designed work environment and a well-curated work experience are part of the reason people who cowork demonstrate higher levels of thriving than their office-based counterparts.” – Why People Thrive in co-working Spaces, Harvard Business Review
It is no news that co-working spaces have disrupted the way people think about traditional workplace environments today. This is one of the reasons behind the sporadic increase in demand and the number of co-working spaces in the last five years. The overall flexible space stock in India has increased by about 50 percent, from 10 million sq. ft. in 2017 to about 15 million sq. ft. by Q3 2018; positioning it amongst the largest flexible space markets in the entire APAC region. This is almost 2.7 percent of the overall commercial office stock of India, as per the CBRE Research.
Flexible workspaces have different models and setups; for example, some are focused towards start-ups and the freelancer community while others are business centers. Similarly, some are hybrid models that marry social innovation, art, or hospitality and there are also boutique and niche shared workspaces.
The co-working movement
A JLL report on the emerging trends In India’s office sector says that approximately 40-45 percent of the business opportunities in co-working sector lies with the mainstream corporate firms/large enterprises with 35-40 percent contributed by SMEs and individual professionals, followed by startups that own about 15-25 percent of the share. This suggests that organizations today want to be a part of the new age or modern work culture that attracts and retains the best resources and which in turn helps increase productivity, innovation, and more importantly, employee satisfaction. Thus, it should come as no surprise that major corporate companies like Netflix, Amazon, Google are integrating co-working in their business strategy, but the question is “what is attracting these enterprises into co-working?”
The answer is a benefit to the economics of the enterprise as it saves them the cost and the hassle of owning, designing, and maintaining an office space. Furthermore, the availability of flexible arrangements like meeting rooms, 24X7 access and fully equipped office, superior infrastructure, and networking opportunities not only add to the benefits list but also impact the company’s culture and employee engagement.
Co-working and company culture
Simply put, culture is defined as “how do things work here,” which typically includes conversation around the values, ethics, working styles, reward system, beliefs that influence employee behavior daily. Culture is usually defined by the leadership and inculcated in the workforce via systems and processes, acknowledgments and especially by behavior. Engagement, on the other hand, could be “how people feel about the way things work around here.” What helps define an employee’s level of engagement, could be based on the kind of meaningful work allocated to them, growth opportunities, management trust, and behavior, the environment that your work in. A company's culture, which is aligned with its business strategy, leads to higher engagement, productivity, and a thriving workforce. Thus, access to a thriving workplace culture and a variety of ways to engage your workforce is one of the most lucrative benefits of being a part of a shared workspace.
However, there is skepticism in the leadership and HR about the impact of co-working spaces on the company culture, and many believe that co-working spaces might dilute the same. Here are a few strategies to safeguard the company culture while working in a shared workplace:
- Describe your company culture explicitly: It is critical to map out, first the purpose and mission of the company’s existence and secondly, what are the core beliefs, values, working styles, expected behaviors and benefits of the company. These don't need to be plastered on the wall or put up on the website; but they need to be a part of daily conversations, meetings/catch-ups, milestones and goals that are set and even your SOP’s. The team needs to understand and be invested in the same equally.
- Communicate: It's crucial to diligently maintain regular conversations with team members even if you are traveling or working out of a different office. Keep taking updates, hold Skype calls, and invite them for regular meetings with larger global teams. This ensures that the employees feel they are valued and are still a part of the company. It helps in easy reporting and ensures there is two-way feedback on ‘the way things are working.’
- Connect and collaborate: It's always good to interact with fellow leaders and other members to find synergies and differentiating elements in working styles, projects, build relations, and a network for growth prospects. Engage with the community enablers and culture heads to understand and discuss what's working and what's not working, seek their assistance to explore ways in which you can help maintain your workplace culture.
- Use of space and amenities: When inducting the idea of working out of a shared workspace, it's important to address aspects like work timings and flexibility. Thus, answer questions like do you have remote employees and how will they access the space; do all employees need dedicated space in cabins or flexible desk is an option for few; will you be able to custom design your rented space so as to reflect your workplace culture; what amenities and perks like pantry, events, parking, etc. will your team have access to and how often? Remember that your office space somewhere reflects and exercises your company’s culture and how your employees function in it is critical.
Using technology to safeguard company culture
Regardless of your industry type, there are a lot of HR tech tools, solutions, and platforms that can be used to reinforce your work culture and ensure employee engagement:
There are a lot of AI-enabled or platform-integrated tools that can be used to acknowledge achievements, performances and reward them with perks, reward points, flyer miles, and partnership perks that help build a culture of recognition and appreciation.
Using cloud-based Saas solutions to offer flexibility and opportunity for employees to be mobile and location-agnostic, yet connected, helps build a culture of collaboration.
Using online learning modules and training sessions help employees constantly keep them upgraded and upskilled.
Many co-working spaces have their integrated co-working management solutions that can be great platforms to help network, talk about achievements, share stories and profiles, collaborate, and find ways to grow your business.
Be a startup, an SME or a large organization, building a healthy company culture is not just key to attracting customers or for business growth, but it's equally critical for maintaining happy employees who are an integral cog in the wheel of your brand. As the world experiences changes in the redistribution of talent, technology, and work, the world of co-working will also evolve with new trends that will grab larger pies from the traditional workplaces. It is upon the leaders then to keep innovating ways in which they can leverage one of the rapidly growing phenomenon to the best of their benefit.