The future is something that’s usually there before we know it. In 2016, when I was commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research to talk to citizens about the world of work in 2035, they imagined all the things that already existed at that time. They didn’t know that the future they wanted already lived today. Probably the future is unconsciously derived from today to have a reassuring idea of it.
Last year, through my consulting work in St. Oberholz, I was able to discuss various ideas with a wide variety of companies, which give an idea of where the journey will lead. Some ideas were perhaps still too early; their time will surely come. Other ideas are already being implemented. The future is already there. That is why the following forecasts were not made with the glass ball, but are already a reality:
First, Coworking will “improve” functioning business models.
Coworking is a culture and not a business model. I know WeWork’s valuations can easily mislead, but a coworking space business model is ambiguous and does not generate billions of dollars in revenue. Nevertheless, coworking works, and there is a need for it. It’s just not economically possible everywhere. However, there are places with functioning business models, but problems that coworking can solve.
Cafés and restaurants only have guests at peak times. Banks and insurance companies no longer earn their money on the rented space. Libraries, post offices, and even shopping centers can hardly keep people staying any longer. With the BLOK O in Frankfurt (Oder), we at St. Oberholz have shown that a bank branch can be integrated into a coworking space. The bank as a place has disappeared, but the bank as a service is where the people are.
We already see this development in other Third Places: restaurants become coworking spaces, libraries become coworking spaces, museums become coworking spaces, gyms become coworking spaces. In 2019 we will see coworking as a frequency generator in more and more places. Partly this will not have much to do with the coworking that we know today. At these places coworking often only means an option for location-independent work.
Second, Coworking and Living will be thought together.
How we work says a lot about how we live our lives. Instead of wasting time on the way to work, people will use the freedom to work anywhere. They will look for coworking spaces in their neighborhood; some will even find coworking spaces in their homes. There is currently no new building project that doesn’t include a coworking space in the commercial basement units.
There are several reasons for this. For the architects, the relocation of workspaces to a central location in the building that can be used by all residents opens up new possibilities regarding living space design. Real estate developers, on the other hand, can show municipalities through Residential Coworking that they are not only building commuter towns, but they are also improving the quality of life on site.
In addition to the commuter problem, neighborhood planning itself will also promote this development. Previous urban planning has not taken digitization into account. Services such as Airbnb, Uber, and WeWork are based on these historical mistakes. Future cities will have concepts such as location-independent work, the compatibility of family and career, as well as other needs of our digitized society, much better considered and integrated.
Third, Coworking will no longer be limited to the office.
In St. Oberholz the sockets hanging from the ceiling in the middle above the table. That has arisen from necessity on site, has proved to be practical and barrier-free and is at the same time a quotation to the workbench, an old place of work. The coworking concept will penetrate even more into other working worlds in 2019. Instead of tables, chairs and the Wi-Fi, people in these places share the space, the tools or merely the knowledge.
That will happen especially in the retail sector, like the Bespoke in San Francisco or like Cowork at the Mall in Chicago are proofing. At Łódź, the Sukcesji shopping center already offers a coworking space as a service in the form of the Smart Office. Dealers who have lost sales due to e-commerce will certainly soon start managing flagship stores as a service for international manufacturers who do not want to deal with real estate and staff locally. Alexander Graf of the Kassenzone.de blog explains this in episode 13 of Christoph Keese’s hy podcast.
Municipalities with vacancies in the inner cities are at least already thinking about such concepts. Shopping centers will follow because their market is nearly saturated and between them, a hard displacement competition threatens. At the same time, suppliers will develop the workshop as a scalable platform. Approaches to this already exist today. We will not see coworking spaces everywhere, but the coworking concept is an essential foundation for the future of work.
Header Image: Wokandapix, CC0 1.0