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posted: 3/11/2020 1:00 AM

Why all the fuss about coworking?

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  • Sue Reardon

    Sue Reardon


Those who thought a decade ago that coworking was just a fad, can no longer deny that it is how today's workforce prefers to work.

More than 3 million people used coworking spaces in 2019. With a projected 24% annual growth rate, that number will grow to over 5 million by 2022. This $26 billion global coworking industry is here to stay.

When we opened Suite Spotte La Grange in 2014, we were the first near West suburban coworking space in the Chicago area. Although there were about 100 urban coworking spaces in Chicago, there were only a handful in the suburbs.

Our biggest challenge was educating the market on coworking and its benefits. Although Chicago's first coworking space opened in 2007, very few people in the suburbs had heard of it by 2014. Back then our members were primarily freelancers and entrepreneurs who lived within a few miles of La Grange.

Yet in 2017 when Suite Spotte Forest Park opened, we had a completely different experience. Coworking had gone mainstream. Our membership expanded adding small business teams and remote workers to the mix of freelancers and entrepreneurs.

Why has coworking taken off? Several prominent research institutes monitor the coworking phenomena. Annual surveys of co-workers are conducted covering all aspects of the co-workers' experience. Here's what the most recent ones say about why co-workers cowork, according to Emergent Research, Small Business Labs:

• 74% experience a boost in productivity.

• 82% expand their professional networks.

• 83% feel less lonely and isolated.

• 84% are more motivated and engaged.

• 79% expand their social network.

• 69% acquire new skills.

• 68% improve their existing skills.

• 89% feel more social, productive, and ultimately happier.

You'll notice there's no mention of a desk or meeting rooms or printers or free coffee. That's because the office space is important, but secondary.

The true value of coworking is the access to a physical and emotional community of professionals focused on building their businesses or careers by working together with other self-starting, similar-minded professionals. Serendipitous networking, sharing of ideas, access to fellow members for feedback or advice, all keep co-workers coworking. A vibrant coworking community is the driving force behind the growth and popularity of coworking.

Although the space may be secondary to the community, it is still important. Co-workers can choose the right type of workspace that suits their needs. Options range from a shared desk in an open space to a dedicated desk, a private office, a team suite for growing small businesses or local corporate teams, well-equipped meeting rooms, and a community kitchen. Fast and secure internet and Wi-Fi access, coffee, tea, and bottled/filtered water are usually included. No need to worry about the details of running an office because that is taken care of for them.

Flexibility and affordability are key to a successful coworking space. Many are membership based and co-workers pay a monthly membership fee depending on the type of workspace they choose. If there is a lease involved, it is typically short-term. This allows co-workers to adjust their space as their needs change.

According to a recent study conducted by Gensler Research Institute, a growing number of larger corporations are embracing coworking because of the favorable impact on employee creativity, effectiveness and experience. Approximately 14% of corporate employees regularly use coworking spaces. For many of these employees, the coworking space is in addition to the traditional office and paid for by their employer.

The same flexibility and affordability that individuals and small businesses enjoy with coworking are attractive to larger corporations. Add to that an innovative coworking community that serves as a great source of upcoming trends and new ideas, you have a winning cost-effective formula.

Coworking may not be for everyone. Yet this popular workplace alternative does have significant appeal to a growing number of workers. Go ahead and try it. See if it works for you.

• Sue Reardon is co-founder and community connector of Suite Spotte LLC in LaGrange and Forest Park,