Up to now, coworking, where mobile workers pay a membership fee to access a cool workspace full of cool people, has had an aura of funky freelancers and trendy young people. But that image of the coworking space as a habitat largely for hip freelancers is changing.
Get ready for the corporate coworker, says Jeremy Neuner, the CEO of NextSpace coworking spaces in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Corporate employees from companies like Plantronics and Cisco already use NextSpace’s six locations, and Neuner expects more will join in the future, as big business start to realize the benefits of giving employees access to environments outside of the corporate campus. What are these benefits? Neuner outlined four in an interview.
Real Estate Shrink Ray
Letting employees use coworking has bottom line benefits, mainly through reduced real estate and associated costs, according to Neuner. “Plantronics has been able to reduce their real estate footprint because they’ve redesigned their corporate campus to accommodate 60% of their head count at any one time,” says Neuner. “That savings on real estate drops right to the bottom like. They’re saving $4 or 5 million.”
“There’s an overhead savings. It’s not just leasing the real estate. It’s buying the furniture, heating and cooling, paying for the utilities,” he adds.
Less Commuting, More Productivity
Commuting is not only a huge time suck but also makes people miserable. Remove this detested part of each day, Neuner believes, and productivity is bound to go up. “If my employee doesn’t need to spend 45 minutes commuting each way, they’re happy to not have to spend 90 minutes a day in the car. They may be applying that [time] directly to their professional work, but even if it’s, ‘I can now hang out with my kids more,’ or ‘I can go to the gym.’ Those kinds of personal enhancement also make people more productive.”
Less Commuting, Less Carbon
Spending less time in the car not only spares people’s nerves, it also helps spares the environment. Besides being a generally nice thing to do for the earth, reducing employees’ carbon footprint can have dollars and cents benefits. “As companies are being forced to think about their overall carbon footprint, one driver is travel for your employees, whether that’s getting on an airplane or whether it’s just commuting to work. As policies begin to come into play where you get credits from a local or national government if you reduce your carbon footprint, giving your employees the chance to work at a coworking space pays bottom line dividends in the form of tax credits.”
An Innovation Premium
Imagine that you’re an employee of a big company, suggests Neuner. Now imagine you escape your corporate cubicle for a coworking space. “Now I’m out of my silo. I’m interacting with people who are from other big companies or from smaller, start-up companies. Just the proximity, just the bumping into people, you never know what kind of great idea you’re going to come up with that you can then bring back to your company,” he says, though he concedes that “it’s hard to measure and monetize what that innovation impact is, but I think it’s real.”
Companies are going to have no choice but to let their employees make workplace choices, and companies will have to get good at guiding those choices,” he concludes.
Photo credit: NextSpace Coworking + Innovation Inc