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Tech Trends of 2016: Campus Co-Working 

Image © Gensler

Editor’s note: this blog is part of a series on 2016 tech trends.

Tech firms are playing a significant role in changing the way we work. Tech and start-up culture has long recognized the benefits of co-working spaces and their relationship to fostering innovation. Now, more traditional industries, including media, healthcare and finance, are recognizing this modern work style’s appeal: serendipitous encounters, community, the free exchange of advice/ideas and shared purpose.

The need to attract young talent, along with lack of affordable real estate and the desire to do meaningful work, have contributed to co-working’s increasing popularity. Whether it’s a large corporation installing teams in external co-working spaces or finding like-minded companies to co-locate on their campuses, the goal is the same: to come together to help fuel new ideas, improve products and push the world forward.

HanaHaus introduces a new typology of space to downtown Palo Alto, California, by repurposing a beloved historical landmark into a hybrid café, co-working, and public space. The co-working space was designed to support entrepreneurs throughout the entire start-up process. Image © Gensler.

Traditional Co-Working

The telecommuter, the mobile worker, the entrepreneur—most business professionals, really—all have something in common: a heightened expectation of a sense of purpose, community and flexibility in their daily lives. Co-working has gained momentum because it aligns with the values of today’s workforce—it’s efficient and provides a sense of community for every generation.

Successful co-working spaces like LiquidSpace and WeWork (now valued at over $10 billion) exist in an array of shapes and sizes: from unbranded, independent spaces often occupied by freelancers and entrepreneurs to spaces dedicated to specialty practices (technology, writing) and even ‘makers’ spaces through companies like TechShop. A study by Emergent Research predicts that globally, co-working membership should grow by approximately 40 percent per year to pass 1 million members by 2018.

Despite its success, co-working space comes with pros and cons. The pros: it’s flexible and convenient. Employees can make their own hours, choose how and where they work, access amenities or even bring their pets. And, according to a Bloomberg article, by opting into a workspace focused on camaraderie and collaboration (free from internal politics), employees tend to feel a greater sense of purpose and meaning.

However, the cons include: a lack of private spaces or phone booths, which makes it difficult to protect sensitive information or find a quiet place to focus. If assigned desk space isn’t available, workers can begin to feel transient with no ownership of their surroundings. Most importantly, it becomes near impossible to sculpt and sustain a company culture and brand in a co-working space.

Tech Companies Seek the Co-Working Spark

Traditional companies have caught on to the success of the co-working formula and are redesigning, expanding or opening their spaces up to other creative thinkers to spark innovation. Whether they are looking to cut down on real estate costs, break into a new market or appeal to millennial workers and trend-focused clients, internal co-working works both in design and function.

1871 takes the raw elements of co-working–connectivity, people, space, and inspiration–and remixes them to uniquely support Chicago’s young start-up scene. Image © Gensler

Internal co-working, or corporate co-working, is a model that has been adopted by a variety of large corporations for a number of different reasons. A co-working space within a company may serve as an alternative work environment for employee well-being, which can boost creativity by 71 percent and improve employee standard of work by 62 percent. An internal co-working space, shared with start-ups, can lead to connections with future leaders and bring a new, fresh outlook on best practices. Alternatively, if the space is shared with other strategically chosen companies, stronger partnerships and collaboration can lead to greater innovation. Some companies, such as Google’s Campus London building, have taken a different route, opting instead for a sponsorship model where employees serve as mentors to the building’s occupants.

Campus co-working design capitalizes on the successful elements of collaborative and focus-based work environments: innovative companies are five times more likely to have workplaces that prioritize both individual and group workspace. As we move forward, considerations such as security and branding approach will be important elements to the success of the corporate co-working space. As connectivity and virtual working continues to expand (time spent collaborating virtually doubled from 2013 to 2016, from 7 to 15 percent), according to Gensler’s U.S. Workplace Survey 2016, human connections will be that much more important—making shared collaborative workspaces indispensable.

Research shows that key drivers of organizational innovation are workplaces that prioritize collaboration, offer greater meaning to employees’ day-to-day roles and create an atmosphere where the whole community feels empowered and supported in their career goals. As companies look to proven methods of innovative workspaces to create well-designed work environments and experiences, they are seeing workforces thrive under these conditions. When companies offer environments that support people being their true selves, the result will be employees who are committed to their organization, more productive, loyal and more likely to be at their best every day.

Natalie Engels re-imagines the workplace experience. A design director and regional leader of Gensler’s Technology practice, Natalie teams with clients to improve their business by designing for the workforce of the future; helping to attract and keep the next generation of employees. Contact her at natalie_engels@gensler.com.
Kristin Quiroz Bayona helps shine a light on the amazing people and projects in San Jose. A PR and marketing specialist, she crafts compelling content on the latest in workplace design. Contact her at kristin_quirozbayona@gensler.com.
Lexi Harmon is a marketing specialist in Gensler’s San Jose office and a member of the Northwest Region Technology Task Force. Passionate about how design can drive innovation, she has played an integral role in developing and launching the 2016 tech trends project. Contact her at lexi_harmon@gensler.com.