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Coworking – Workplace as a Service not a Space
Part 4 of 6

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Workplace as a Service? Let’s look at why the workplace should be seen as a service, and not just a space…

Coworking’s focus on providing services and support to members, and on creating value through access to communities of innovators and entrepreneurs, has many similarities to traditional business clubs and the coffeehouse community culture that migrated from the Middle East to Europe in the seventeenth century.  As with coworking hubs, these coffeehouses harboured creative, intellectual, and political discourse, which eventually gave rise to organisations such as London Stock Exchange and Lloyd’s of London.

There are also antecedents to coworking communities in incubators and accelerators, which are similar in providing industry-specific support and access to venture capital funding.  Although strictly speaking incubators and accelerators have defined entry criteria for membership and focus on the commercialisation of innovation, active support for member business growth is a core value of many coworking organisations.

The emphasis on events, learning opportunities, networking and business collaboration, and increasingly provision of extended business support services such as accounting, recruitment support, access to local government and community-based organisations, introductions to venture capitalists, is what makes coworking spaces very different to the traditional serviced office model.  As Tony Bacigalupo, co-founder of New Work City notes:

The vast majority of work being done now can get done from anywhere with a signal.  We don’t go to these new workplaces because we need an office; we go because we need what happens in the office.


Successful coworking businesses provide members with a platform of services, spaces and systems, and the freedom to choose how they use it.  This ability to choose (and vary) your work experience within a single platform is highly valued by knowledge workers and is far more complex than just choosing a workplace setting.

This means acknowledging that the divisions between real estate, information technology and human resources departments are not only redundant, but potentially damaging.


The mentality of leaders must shift from creating a place where they assume people need to show up, to creating a place where people want to show up because this is where they will work most effectively and feel most successful.  This has become known as the ’employee experience equation’.  A highly varied, flexible, DIY-type space such as ANZ Bank’s “Playbox 2.0” is a great example of getting the whole ‘platform’ and cultural transformation right, not just focusing on the design look-and-feel.

What does this mean for CRE Leaders?

Become advocates for a holistic approach to workplace experience within your organisation, acknowledge that perceptions of the physical environment are inseparable from perceptions of the company’s overall concern for its people, and reflects the extent to which these priorities are authentic to company values.  Improving the workplace experience doesn’t have to mean a new, hip fitout, in future it means working with partners in human resources, technology, marketing and management to collectively solve workplace problems and remove obstacles to performance.

Don’t forget to continue the conversation in the Comments below!

In the next article, I’ll discuss why the advent of technology-enabled “work anywhere, anytime” has increased rather than decreased the importance of place. As the success of Coworking has demonstrated, face to face matters more than ever for building trusted relationships and creating culture and community.

This article was originally published by Caroline M. Burns, PhD, on October 7, 2016 at the series by Dr. Caroline M. Burns on Coworking and the Future of Work

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