Office i Ohio

It's all about the flexibility: Coworking still surging across the Midwest

It's all about the flexibility: Coworking still surging across the Midwest,ph01
The reception area in Spaces’ new location in Columbus.
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Spaces Short North features an open design.

It’s a trend that is showing no signs of slowing: Coworking spaces are popping up across the country. And the Midwest is no exception, as both small companies and their bigger cousins are looking to coworking spaces to provide flexible work options for their employees.

The latest example? Coworking provider Spaces has opened its newest location in Columbus, Ohio’s Short North neighborhood. Spaces Short North opened July 1 and provides 39,000 square feet of workspace. The coworking space includes a business club, dedicated desk space, private offices and four meeting rooms.

There are other amenities, too. Spaces Short North includes a wrap-around outdoor terrace, wellness room and fitness center. The building housing the new space has a rooftop bar and first-floor restaurant.

And above all? Spaces Short North provides a good example of what modern coworking spaces look like and the impact these spaces are having on the world of work.

Michael Berretta, vice president of network development for IWG, which owns Spaces, said that companies – both large, traditional businesses and smaller, entrepreneur-fueled smaller companies – are looking for flexibility in their workspaces today. Coworking spaces, with their mix of office arrangements and work stations, provide this.

And as work continues to evolve, with employees demanding easier commutes and the option to work from different locations, the coworking boom should only continue, Berretta said.

“The one common theme that has remained true is the demand for flexibility,” Berretta said. “If you can give a customer or business or growing company the ability to have less risk and less restrictive contracts with their working arrangements, you will have success. Businesses want this flexibility.”

And while coworking spaces are attractive to employers, they are also positives for workers. IWG released a study earlier this year showing that 80 percent of U.S. workers would choose a job that offered flexible working spaces over one that didn’t.

And that’s just one study. There have been others showing that the demand for coworking isn’t slowing.

In a recent report, the Global Coworking Unconference Conference and Emergent Research predicted that there would be 5,026 coworking spaces in the United States by the end of 2019. That number is expected to rise to 6,219 by the end of 2022.

The report provides a good look at how fast coworking has grown. According to the report, there were only 14 coworking spaces in the United States at the end of 2007. Demand since then, of course, has skyrocketed.

The number of people who work in coworking spaces is rising, too. The report said that as of the end of 2016, a total of 331,000 people worked from coworking spaces. The report predicts that this number will hit 754,000 by the end of 2019 and 1.076 million by the end of 2022.

This growth is happening quickly. Just look at WeWork, one of the bigger names in today’s coworking space.. The company got its start in 2010 with a single location in New York City. But as the demand for coworking spaces has increased, WeWork has exploded. Today, you can find WeWork sites in 100 cities spread across 27 countries. As of early 2019, WeWork had opened 425 locations.

What’s interesting is that coworking spaces aren’t just for solo entrepreneurs, start-ups or smaller companies. Big businesses also use these spaces, Berretta said.

A large company might be testing out a new product or service during a 12-month period. This company might rent out work spaces in a coworking space while it experiments, Berretta said. Or maybe the same company will rent conference rooms or event space in a coworking facility to host a product launch or focus groups.

Maybe a large law firm is opening in a new part of the country. The firm might take space in a coworking facility while it determines how to best approach and grow in its new market, Berretta said.

“It all maps back to two things, flexibility and accessibility,” Berretta said. “Even in Columbus and the Midwest there are massive amounts of congestion and traffic. People don’t have the patience for it any more. If their job allows them to work closer to where they want to live, they are more likely to stay with it.”

Berretta said that Columbus made sense for Spaces to target. The city is a strong market with a diverse array of business types and users, from solo entrepreneurs to tech start-ups to media companies and financial services providers.

“When we were evaluating spaces for coworking in the United States, it was relatively easy for us to decide in which cities we wanted to put a flag in and develop over the last two years,” Berretta said. “Columbus was on the short list. We saw a great deal of pent-up demand for customers who were looking for this type of product in Columbus.”

The Short North area of Columbus, known for its artsy community, was especially attractive to Spaces, Berretta said. The area is home to restaurants and shops. New multifamily housing options have popped up in the community. It’s a busy and growing area, and it makes sense that Spaces’ clients would want to offer people flexible working space in the neighborhood.

“The reaction so far in Columbus has been great,” Berretta said. “We had a lot of pent-up demand. And our design is more contemporary, very open and light. It’s a pleasant place where people can interact with each other.”