Co-working is a phenomenon. And it is on the rise.
Harvard Business Review defines co-working as the sharing of workspaces, usually membership-based, among freelancers, remote workers and independent professionals.
A big contributor to this occurrence is technology, with more people taking on freelance jobs. According to The Guardian, the big draw of the co-working model is that it provides workers with more control over their working lives. In fact, co-working is becoming so popular that Small Business Labs forecasts a jump in the global number of co-working individuals from 976,000 in 2016 to over 3.8 million in 2020.
This means that co-working spaces are looking to be the offices of the future. In the same Small Business Labs reports, it is expected that global co-working spaces will meteorically rise from just over 11,000 in 2016 to 26,000 in 2020.
But what does this signify in terms of sustainability? Here are four positive impacts of co-working spaces:
Co-working spaces that are propping up have sustainability at their core.
Co-working spaces follow the sharing principle. DeskMag emphasizes that this refers not just to the physical space but also to supplies, resources and amenities, lowering wastefulness. Compare this with solo offices which redound to more wastage.
Marissa Feinberg of Green Spaces in Manhattan said, “We have designed a whole system around a sharing economy. 100 companies would have 100 paper cutters. At Green Spaces, 100 companies have one paper cutter.”
Karina Warshaw of Grind, another co-working space in the same city, said in an interview with Desk Mag that they provide silverware, cups and glasses to avoid the use of plastic utensils. They also use recycled or recyclable materials and have built the entire space of Grind following sustainable principles.
If it’s not ‘green’ the co-working space is ‘outdated’.
Gabriela Hersham, founder of Huckletree, an environmentally-friendly workspace in London, said in an interview: “More and more people and businesses are committing to environmentally friendly policies and doing their bit. They have to. If they’re not thinking green, they’re already outdated.” This is because co-workers are most often the breed of individuals that are also into sustainability and doing what they can to save the planet. In fact, the market demands sustainability to which co-working spaces need to respond. It also ups the ante in terms of competitiveness.
Green co-working spaces make business sense.
Sustainable co-working spaces are economically viable. Take for example the CoCoon in Hongkong. In a report on what is currently the largest co-working space in Hongkong, it has been noted that the place requires very little maintenance. It is using local and drought-resistant plants, bamboo flooring, LED lights and non-toxic paints. Plans are also underway to ensure its energy-efficiency. This makes the CoCoon not just sustainable but also economically viable.
Warshaw notes the importance of sustainability from both the business and environmental perspectives. “By working collaboratively in a space such as ours (referring to Grind in Manhattan), members not only reduce their carbon footprints, they increase their bottom lines.
‘Creativity is sustainability’.
Christopher Magick, the founder of Sustainable Valley (SV), a workspace that is soon to open in Byron Bay, Australia coined this phrase. It is in relation to his vision of promoting SV as a co-working, innovation and creative hub that will help businesses achieve sustainable and ethical operations through the services they provide, as well as the eco-friendly principles that they practice. Through the application of sustainable principles and practices, SV seeks to empower and inspire the businesses that they are welcoming to follow the same.
Indeed, co-working spaces are revolutionizing the concept of offices and the way that people work. Most importantly, it is helping in ensuring sustainability and a better future.
Are you using a co-working space or know a freelance or entrepreneur who’s using one? Would you recommend it? Share your experience and stories in the comments below and help facilitate open discussion.