Co-working at third places: How new work areas will shake up commuting behaviour

In this highly mobile and networked era, an individual’s home or work place is just one node in his Small World Network. Living, socializing and working branches out to third places – public areas in between the home and the traditional workplace – that function as satellite stops that nourish contemporary knowledge workers with interaction and inspiration.

• 71% report a boost in creativity since joining a coworking space

• Almost 90% of coworkers report an increase in self-confidence

• Between a third and half of all workers are flexible and mobile

• 62% said their standard of work had improved in a coworking space

• 70% of coworkers feel healthier than they did working in a traditional office

• 64 percent of coworkers are better able to complete tasks on time.

• 50% of all coworkers access their work space around the clock

• 85% of space operators believe the market is not saturated and there is room for more spaces in their region.

• During 2015, the number of Co-working spaces has grown globally by 36% and today (2016) there are 788 Coworking spaces worldwide, offering ca. 500.000 regular co- workers a place to stay.

Third Places are the new ‘fluid’ working areas.

Living, socializing and working branches out to third places – public areas in between the home and the traditional workplace: railway stations, airports, shopping malls, cafés. These third places enrich the way we live and are important to the way society functions. ‘Connectivity Thinking’ became the buzzword with the democratization of ICT. Sharing, collaboration, crowdsourcing, the ‘Wisdom of Many’, re-mixing, co-creation, co-working … are the buzzwords of today, illustrating the paradigm change in our relation to knowledge and creativity.

Holistic mobile lifestyles

The concept of mobility has evolved in recent years into a “holistic mobile lifestyle”. At the heart of the drive for human mobility lies the desire to live, think and act individually. The working world in particular will experience a significant increase in flexibility in the years to come. The buzzword is ‘mobile workers’. Our personal mobility increasingly determines whether we can obtain certain jobs, unite professional and private goals, reconcile desires and demands or improve our quality of life. Already today, professional activities are no longer bound to a fixed location. An increasing number of employees carry on their work while on the move. This location-independence will only increase further in the future.

From 3rd wave coffee bars and bistro terraces to co-working spaces and shared offices, the new job nomads want to be flexible and individually seek out and adapt their own mobile working worlds. Sharing and collaboration is the mantra of the new generation. It finds a particular expression in trending co-working spaces: large office spaces in which different entrepreneurs pursue their respective activities alongside each other. Today more than 1,000 co-working spaces are distributed as international chains across the globe.

Entrepreneurial mobility

Co-working offices attract young, open-minded people who understand physical proximity results in positive synergies. They want to be successful entrepreneurs with their own business. At the same time they acknowledge that the future lies in project-oriented collaborations between the individual independently operating companies. Thus, co-working is not only spatial but also spiritual cooperation, enabling both concentrated work, as well as stimulating discussions and cross-pollination.

“You’re not a small business by yourself anymore. You’re part of a large group of people who all feel like they are part of something bigger.”
(Adam Neumann, CEO of WeWork, trying to capture WeWork’s appeal)

A portrait of the innovating leader of the industry WeWork

In order to fully understand where co-working is going, it is good to monitor the innovator and fastest grower in the field. Saying that WeWork is just another coworking space is like saying Starbucks was just another coffeehouse. According to WeWork – the largest co-work franchise in the world with over 77 spaces of over 10,000 square meters and over 50,000 members – coworking is not just about the building. It is about the network, the inspiring setting and collaboration. When visiting WeWork in Amsterdam and having an interview with the community managers (on the 2nd of December 2016), they admitted that the secret of WeWork is about the vitality and the working culture that is actively nourished. It is about supporting services and keeping the creative spirit in an always on mode.

WeWork has an activity calendar with workshops and trainings to participate, and on a Friday afternoon beers are free. The social network has a digital dimension that is experienced as a Facebook, LinkedIN and marketplace combined. As member you are part of a worldwide community of professionals.

Fluid workspaces are on the rise and have the potential to reduce the pressure on mobility demands. Today we see a broad diversity of co-working and co-living places, cafés, even hotels developing.

At WeWork, the environment is more hip hotel lobby than ho-hum open plan, and it offers its members favourable rates on services such as payroll and health insurance and, in New York, bento box lunches from Momofuku. WeWork isn’t just for start-ups or freelancers anymore: even big companies like Red Bull and J. Crew have stationed some of their employees in WeWork locations.

Why Third places are important for mobility mindsets

The number of creative workers and knowledge workers is rising. In Belgium, 60% of active citizens are employed in the service-, knowledge- and creative industry. This transfer is not only happening among independent freelancers and entrepreneurs, but also within large corporations. The insight that the new breed of co-working places offers, is that people are more productive when working together with peers in an inspiring environment than when fenced in inside an (often boring) office building.

Most players in the field of co-working make use of sophisticated models to define strategic settlement that are well connected with public transport. They also grow by choosing cities and areas where most creative professionals are residing.

  • Adam Neumann’s $16 Dollar Billion Neu-utopian Play to Turn WeWork into WeWorld,, 03/14/2016
  • The WeWork solution: America’s most successful co-office space arrives in China, Forbes, 22/06/2016
  •, The Global Coworking survey

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