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The New Normal: a Quick Guide to the Who, How, When and Why of Co-Working

By Contributed content 24 April 2018
Are you new to co-working, or thinking about using a shared workspace? You’ve probably got a lot of questions about who chooses co-working, what they’re looking for, and how they like to work. To help answer some of those questions, the team at theDesk share their insights, the latest global data, and the who, how, when, and why of today’s co-working trends.

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What’s the Alternative?

The likelihood is, working from home is your chief alternative. In fact, around 45 percent of new co-working members previously worked from a home office. If that wasn’t you, then you are likely in the quarter of people who choose a traditional office as an alternative. Think the coffee shop is bursting with entrepreneurs? Think again. Only around 6 percent of people think of them as viable places for serious work.

The Rules of Attraction

Co-working offers people far more than just a place to work — it fosters meaningful connections between people. Working from home can be isolating, and it requires active self-discipline to keep a healthy work/life balance. The majority (59 percent) of those surveyed chose co-working spaces because of the social atmosphere. For 56 percent of respondents, the appeal is getting the range of interactions they need to do great work, while 55 percent of people cite the community as the main benefit. An inclusive community focuses on creating valuable and mutually beneficial relationships between members and the neighbourhood.

The Clinchers

What other factors do people look for in their ideal workspace? More than anything, increasing numbers (51 percent) say proximity to home is significant. Following that, 41 percent of people prioritised value for money and convenient transport connections. Fewer people (38 percent) pay attention to necessary office infrastructure — these days, we expect all workspaces to have good WiFi and connectivity.

Flexibly Working Hours

Many things have evolved in the world of work, but one thing that hasn’t is the working hours. The average co-worker’s day is around nine hours, just like working in a traditional office. The over 50s, singles, and parents tend to work longer and more irregular hours. Depending on the plan, theDesk is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the year. Flexibility is a crucial factor for members who may have clients in other time zones, are working to urgent deadlines, or need the flexibility to fit in with their broader schedule.

Frequency of Use

Not all members work in co-working spaces every day. The majority of people combine working from home with going to a workspace, however, the trend is towards workspaces, like theDesk, being the main workplace. Data shows that 40 percent of people go at least five times a week, and 30 percent go three to four times per week.

Who are Co-workers?

The assumption that co-working is a millennial trend is a myth. In fact, the average age is 36, and ages are increasing depending on the sector. Employers with staff have an average age of 40, and freelancers are, on average, 38 years old. Co-workers are typically a well-educated bunch, and 85 percent have completed some form of academic education. The survey also highlights the high level of education among co-working members, of which 41 percent hold a bachelor’s degree, and 41 percent a master’s, while 4 percent have received their doctorate. Globally, around 44 percent of members are women, but more and more women are choosing flexible workspaces. Among sectors, we see the share of women increase to 46 percent of freelancers and they are the majority of company employees. Reflecting inequalities in the workplace, women make up only 24 percent of employers with staff in co-working spaces.

Who Pays?

The flexible plans and pricing at theDesk are attractive for people starting or growing their business. According to the 2017 global survey, 60 percent of members pay their fees, and only one in four people say their employer or client pays for their workspace. Interestingly, 6 percent of people arrange alternative forms of payment, for example, they may provide services or offer their time and work, while 4 percent of people or companies are allowed to work there for free.

Popular Memberships

It’s hard to be specific about membership types. At theDesk’s space in One Hysan Avenue, the neighbourhood characteristics mean the majority of space is given to private offices. The Sai Ying Pun workspace combines dedicated desks and hot desks with spacious and well-lit private offices. Many have space for upwards of 12 people. Whatever your work, co-working offers a wide range of tailored and flexible solutions. From the survey, monthly subscriptions are the most popular membership type, with 83 percent of respondents choosing this option, while 6 percent opt for hourly, daily, and weekly subscriptions.

Working Together or Alone?

The best co-working spaces understand that the main objective for members is to get work done, not to lounge on sofas or play ping pong in fancy surroundings. It’s no surprise that half of co-workers work alone, but there is an increase in the number of teams using flexible workspaces. This is noticeable at theDesk, where established businesses taking private offices are becoming the norm. One key reason people choose co-working spaces is that working from home or in a coffee shop does not provide them with the same environment or social atmosphere of being in a shared workspace. The survey backs this up, with around two-thirds of co-workers preferring to work in teams.

Desks and Offices

Some spaces dedicate themselves to hot desking, but fewer people are doing this or using dedicated desks in open work areas. Trends are focusing more towards a dedicated place to work, with 60 percent of people preferring to have their own desk. Globally, while private offices are becoming increasingly popular, 74 percent of people still work in open areas. The design of a workspace is essential to allow people to work undisturbed, interact with others when they wish to, and accommodate the needs of all members.
Read more! Check out the 12 Best Co-Working Spaces in Hong Kong, or learn Why Small Talk Makes You More Productive.

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