Coworking fever

The coworking fever revolutionizes the concept of office

The shared spaces have passed in only ten years of being a residual business to overcome the 17,700 centers

Can life change new ways of working? Can they destroy the spaces of solitude? Or maybe we are asking too much? This is the promise that drags like a gold river the coworking. It is the last great success of the labor market, the last blockbuster of the real estate sector. The fever for shared spaces circumnavigates the world with the obstinacy of a sailor and a sextant. It is the journey through a change of time. For the good and the bad. The idea of employment from nine to five vanishes, the concept of a 40-hour workday and even four weeks of vacation. Everything is a pale fire and the harbinger of a different future. "In 20 years we will use a completely flexible work model, and we will no longer have a fixed position to work in the most appropriate environment at each moment and with schedules adapted to individual needs", predicts Philippe Jiménez, responsible in Spain for the signature of coworking IWG

Until that day arrives we live under the spell of the nomadic workers enlightened by the digital economy. These professionals They tend to be young, enterprising and technological. And look for spaces that speak for them. Many, more than 2.3 million, have found their place in the world this year in a coworking. These flexible spaces create real glass zoos. Their brightness has attracted them, that mixture between innovative design and architecture. "Where today you work, tomorrow a meal or a presentation is made, and vice versa, and the space must support and stimulate it," observes architect Juan Herreros. This principle of versatility runs through these new places. They move between the industrial and the everyday. But, above all, they give off a sense of community. The effort is to mix talents from different worlds. Create networks Enrich the word. And this is gunpowder over fire. "Seeing hard-working people motivates us to do the same, but they also never interrupt us, because our work is independent, not interdependent," says Ethan Bernstein, a leadership professor at Harvard Business School. ANDThis ecosystem forges with workshops, yoga, mindfulness. A small leisure city within a small city of work.

But is this the future? The destiny that awaits millions of people? Or is it a fad? Researcher Gretchen Spreitzer has been studying its effects for four years. "I think this way of working will be important for distance employees and freelances because it gives them a sense of community work," he explains. Also, they feel that they do not compete with anyone. On the contrary, it is a tool in the face of loneliness. Working remotely has its advantages: autonomy, flexibility of schedules and control over work. But if we asked some of these professionals they would complain about the isolation. According to Vivek Murth, former head of the United States Department of Health, the increase in people working at a distance and the rise of independent workers who arrived from the economy of small jobs (gig economy) They're a of the reasons for the alarming "epidemic of loneliness". An illness that extends to become a public health problem. "Loneliness is associated with a reduction in life expectancy similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and causing more havoc than obesity," Murthy warned.


The coworking they fight against this sadness of the passing days. And for that they serve from the common rooms to the own tenants telling their projects to the companions. "Because we not only offer space, we open doors for businesses to grow and new connections are developed that allow our members to be part of something bigger than themselves," says Audrey Barbier-Litvak, General Director of France and Southern Europe. of the firm WeWork. A different light enters the work space of the 21st century. "That's why it's necessary to combine security and flexibility. Workers will need to know that space will be available when they are needed, and will be as they like it. At the same time, they should say goodbye to the nine to five model, "says Louis Hyman, professor of labor relations at Cornell University (New York). "Our traditional format of telephone, desk and photos of the children, or of the dog, will not be the office that we will see from here on".

The coworking quiere reimaginar el modelo clásico, y sus números revelan que el aleteo de la mariposa ha devenido en tifón. En 2007, de acuerdo con la consultora Emergent Research, había solo 14 espacios compartidos en el mundo. Al final del año alcanzarán los 17.725. Y un poco más adelante, en 2022, sumarán 30.432. No existen cifras oficiales de lo que ingresa el sector. Se sabe, eso sí, que los miembros crecen con fuerza. De 2,3 millones este año a 5,1 durante 2022. Y la industria cada vez necesita más terreno. En Europa, según la consultora Savills Aguirre Newman, desde el primer trimestre de 2017, más de 820.000 metros cuadrados fueron ocupados por proveedores de este espacio flexible. El primero gestionó casi 295.000 metros cuadrados; el segundo, 155.000. Un álgebra elegante cuya solución levanta voces críticas.

"This formula only has a route in cities with a lot of rental offer and in young companies that create jobs and need flexible spaces at reasonable prices," says entrepreneur Rodolfo Carpintier. Spaces that do not serve all workers, because if they are too open they can be noisy and uncomfortable. "One of the big mistakes of many coworking is to try to make everything look strident, vibrant and fun, "says Forbes magazine Jamie Hodari, co-founder of Industrious. That is why companies like Sheltair have found their business in the antipodes of that risk. "We do the opposite to a collaborative office. We offer private, isolated spaces, places to concentrate; silence, "reveals Anna Martínez, founder of the Spanish startup.

However, this is the end of the story. At first there were no design spaces, free drinks, a community director, table tennis, plants, music; joy. At the beginning there was the crisis of 2008, the precariousness in employment, the multinationals saying goodbye, the races threaded with silk thread and the intense pain caused by austerity. "The recession gave these spaces meaning. There they found their accommodation workers at a distance and the universe freelance. After all, it's cheaper to have employees outside the office. Especially if they pay, let's think about the false self-employed, their own social contributions. It had logic as a measure of cost reduction. And for the employee it was a better alternative than unemployment, "recalls Gayle Allard, professor at IE Business School. Under the gloom of this landscape, thousands of people searched in this style of employment and in entrepreneurship a refuge in the storm. So, is shared work a response to precariousness?

In the beginning, yes. It is no coincidence that its takeoff coincides with the start of the Great Recession. "I like to think about the coworking in the terms that the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk called "co-immunity". Create a series of shared protection bubbles that give people the appropriate space to make the most of their potential, "reflects in The Guardian Melissa Gregg, Intel's chief engineer. Because in these places nobody is obliged to socialize. The one who is reserved can hide behind his bubble and disappear. However, that skin that touches another skin is part of the hope of this business model. "I am confident that it will work well because its main objective is to satisfy a human need - to put people in contact - and not a technological one," predicts Giles Alston, an expert at the British consultancy Oxford Analytica. To his credit, of course, he has the complicity of an entire generation. The awakening of millennials to the professional world encourages business. They are entrepreneurs, launch startups and are changing where and how they work. "These young people like to be close to other creative and interesting people instead of working at home or typing from a cafeteria, "says Jason Dorsey, a researcher at The Center for Generational Kinetics in Texas. In addition, it is the perfect place to increase your network of contacts and the space can be paid even for hours. In fact, a hot desk (a table with no assigned site) costs, on average, in WeWork, about 250 euros, and an individual office, 650. And it is accessed at any time of the day and week.

This generation is a reminder that human beings are social creatures and we long to be surrounded by people. This does not change no matter how much technology advances. And it is something that the pioneers of the coworking. If they only considered it a real estate business, survival was very difficult. Because it was competing, above all, in price. One of those pioneers, Alex Hillman, founder of the Indy Hall space, takes intuition further. "This industry does not talk about new ways of working, this industry talks about happiness."

Far from rhetoric, all industries talk about money. In the United States, the average price of creating a new shared work space, according to the magazine Deskmag, is 450,000 dollars (390,000 euros). A cost that suffers a centrifugal and centripetal force at the same time. Because they are opening large and expensive premises, very well equipped, and, at the same time, small spaces that hardly need more investment than a web and simple furniture. The value in Europe, for smaller areas, is lower: around 250,000 euros.

In Spain, the movement has been slow to arrive, but it is already here. He does it with a mix of large International (WeWork, IWG) and national players. One of the latter is Utopicus, controlled by Colonial. Around it, an entire ecosystem of small and medium-sized companies that look for their identity signs "in a sector with a high birth rate and death rate where those who bet for creating a community will survive", predicts Vanessa Sans, an expert in this world. For now, the pieces are placed, mainly, on the boards of Madrid and Barcelona. Last year -accorde with the consulting firm Cushman & Wakefield- a total of 30,600 square meters were contracted in both cities. This figure is on track to double. Only in the first half of the year, 31,000 square meters have been added to these two destinations.

Much of the blame for that ambition falls on WeWork. The American startup

- valued at 20,000 million dollars - is moving its pawns with the security of an opening with white. In Madrid, it has opened three centers (Castellana, 77 and 43, and Eloy Gonzalo, 27) and in Barcelona it inaugurated a 6,000 square meter building on Tangier Street. Regus has sought his particular response to that play with a series of chained openings. Alcobendas, Ortega y Gasset (Madrid), Diagonal Hightech, Sarrià Forum (Barcelona) and Torre Aragonia (Zaragoza). In Spain, IWG already occupies more than 70,000 square meters, spread over 43 centers. So much professionalization complicates the subsistence of homemade proposals. "The coworking more romantic you need to rethink a bit, because if you only compete on prices you are at a disadvantage compared to the big ones. The option is to create stronger communities and specialize [design, photography, programming], "advises Albert Cañigueral, analyst in collaborative economics.

Because living solely from the lease is very hard. The solution is to attract large companies. And in this they go almost all: the coworking corporate. The most courted lady on the board. "Right now it is one of the main movements. In two senses. The arrival of heavyweights to the sector and the attraction to these centers of large companies, "says Manuel Zea, founder of Colonial Real Estate and Utopicus belong to that first category, which will open five new spaces before the end of the year (Gran Vía, Orense and Príncipe de Vergara, in Madrid, and Paseo de Gracia and the 22 @ district in Barcelona), with a total of 15,000 square meters. And in 2019 they will open offices, at least, in the Gal la Placídia square in Barcelona (4,200 square meters) and in the Paseo de La Habana in Madrid (5,600 square meters). The game, it would seem, seems to settle the queen. "It is time to have economies of scale and professional management. Those who have both virtues will survive, and those who have a vision of subsistence should find other ways, "warns Óscar López, operations director at Utopicus. In this business, as in most brick derivatives, localization is essential. The Merlin Properties real estate company, which participates in Loom House, manages some 3,000 square meters in such unique spaces as the Royal Tapestry Factory or Calle de las Huertas, both in Madrid.

Expanding sector

Every week seems to open a new space. An equal format, but also something different, and in Spain its figures no longer reflect the loneliness of prime numbers. There are some 1,547 spaces that generate 140 million euros. More than 32,000 positions. These are the calculations of It is the strength of your particular Excel. "It's not a fad. Whoever sees it like that is wrong. This sector has an enormous capacity for growth and has come to stay, "says Ilan Dalva, National Director of Agencies of BNP Paribas Real Estate. A land of possibilities and advantages. "Has many. For example, there is no implementation cost and a global experience is lived. A shared office of the same brand enjoys the same environment. It does not matter if you are in Madrid or in New York, "says the expert.

Doubt comes when the heavens become so dark that they look solid. What will happen if a new crisis rages? Some prestigious economists already predict another recession in the United States during 2020. "Freelance workers and very small teams of 10 or less who rent a desk for $ 400 [347 euros] per month do not really need a coworking to work. When there is a downturn in the economy, many will decide to do it from home or in a cafeteria, "predicts Eugene Lee, head of business development at the Knotel office provider. This is the great threat of this model. Therefore, companies in the sector try to win large customers and diversify risk. "A commercial office is cheaper than a coworking or a business center, "admits Ángel Estebaranz, national director of Savills Office Agency, who, despite everything, defends this formula. Perhaps because its true value is that it has become a testing ground in a different way of understanding work. Where millions of people rehearse every day a new way of living and also question loneliness.

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