Money & Business

Why Coworking Will Survive the WeWork Saga

By / Oct 2, 2019 (fizkes/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Given WeWork’s recent troubles, association pros might be wondering if coworking is on the way out. But despite bad press for the company, the the coworking model appears to have staying power.

The recent drama involving the prominent coworking firm WeWork—in which the organization’s weaknesses led to a failed attempt at an initial public offering and a replacement at the top—may be enough to make some organizations question the coworking concept entirely.

Should they?

Probably not. The coworking model has a lot of momentum working in its favor, both for workers and leaseholders. WeWork is not the only player—though it shares about half the flexible-office market with Regus owner IWG—and associations looking for nontraditional office space to house their employees still have multiple options to explore.

Speaking to the real estate news outlet Curbed in August, CBRE Senior Researcher Julie Whelan noted that “the changes to work behavior are happening so quickly, we’re not even noticing them. The way we work now is vastly different than it was 10 years ago; that’s what’s driving this need for flexible space.”

And that shift—thanks in part to technology and in part to general work culture—means that there will still likely be a market for coworking options in the coming years, no matter who is operating the building. CBRE predicts substantial growth in flexible office space over the next decade, recently projecting an increase from 1.8 percent (71 million square feet) of total office space in the 40 U.S. markets it studied to 13 percent in 2030 (600 million square feet).

“Even in a low-growth scenario, CBRE sees flexible office space claiming up to 6.5 percent of the market by 2030,” the firm stated in a news release. (CBRE itself has dipped its toes in the sector with its house brand, Hana.)

In recent years, competitors have emerged in the sector—some national, some regional—and many of them have borrowed from WeWork’s design approach and structure. In some cases, associations and other nonprofit organizations have established their own coworking spaces—including the Freelancers Union, which earlier this year launched a partnership with New York City.

The growth of the market is leading to more experimental models that have further shifted what flex work and coworking look like. For example, startups like New York’s Spacious are turning fancy restaurants into coworking spaces during the day, and others, like the U.K.-based Desana, allow workers to find new spots to work on any given day—even when they’re on the road.

So no matter what happens to WeWork, organizations will likely have plenty of opportunities to make coworking work for them.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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