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‘Co-working industry in 2020 – challenges and growth opportunities’

This article has been penned by Smartworks’ founder Neetish Sarda. Smartworks is one of India’s fast growing co-working space companies. The company recently opened 250,000 sq feet state-of-the-art co-working office in the IT city of Bengaluru.

Smartwork’s founder Neetish Sarda

The burgeoning growth of entrepreneurship and startups has led to an exponential increase in the number of location-independent workers. The workforce of today largely comprises of millennials who demand a workspace which is driven by agility, affordability, networking opportunities and maximized community collaboration.

The co-working sector in India is constantly thriving and witnessing an extensive boom in popularity, with a rapid increase in the number of corporate companies utilizing co-working spaces in expanding their geographical footprint. According to JLL predictions, co-working will constitute at least 50% of all commercial real estate in the coming decade. Even though India is APAC’s second-largest market for flexible workspaces and has witnessed an enormous increase in the number of people opting to work out of a co-working space only 40 percent of all co-working spaces in the world are profitable. (Source: JLL)

The emerging trend of co-working has led to the mushrooming increase of co-working space providers to cater to the rising demands, however, sustenance of a co-working space is way strenuous than it seems. Apart from sustaining the occupancy levels and maintaining a diversified client mix, the flexible workspace operators are enduring enormous challenges to stay profitable.

Data Security and Privacy

Large enterprises are often apprehensive about working out of a shared workspace owing to their skepticism of privacy and confidentiality breach. However, managed space providers are configuring office spaces in accordance to the needs of the companies and providing them a secure environment by installing smart visitor management systems and integrated alarm systems. Most co-working providers are also introducing private Wi-Fi networks for individual clients and implementing strict security policy to safeguard their members from cyber threats.

Standardization of Experience

One of the primary challenges faced by co-working spaces is optimizing operational costs without compromising on the service quality. Standardization of service offerings and member experience across different centres and cities within the country would become a priority for all the co-working players. Standardized working environment, state-of-the-art amenities and services will enable member companies to expand their geographical footprint and boost employee morale.

Increased competition and consolidation

As the sector grows in leaps and bounds, co-working space providers have to constantly innovate and re-invent their service offerings to provide an unmatched experience to their member companies and maximize their profitability. With global real estate investors showing interest in the co-working sector, numerous mergers and consolidations can be foreseen, with smaller unorganized players becoming a part of a larger known brand. Staying relevant and profitable at the face of the growing competition is a major challenge for most co-working players.

Seamless technology integration at workspaces

Technology plays a crucial role in creating a gratifying work experience and defining how employees interact with each other. The modern workspace experience rests on how efficiently employees can leverage technology to get their work done and increase their productivity. Some of the proprietary tech solutions deployed by workspace providers are smart video conferencing and networking equipment, uninterrupted super-fast Wi-Fi, cyber security solutions, and enterprise security tools.

Some workspace providers have already begun offering easy-to-use mobile applications to accentuate better issue resolution for their community members. The introduction of AI-enabled interactive bots in office spaces help in the overall office management activities such as real-time updates to facility managers and grievance recording, it acts as an important communication tool between facility managers and business owners. There is still abundant scope for managed space providers to innovate and introduce IoT-based solutions to elevate the working experience of the members and ensure seamless operations.

B2B growth opportunities

One of the perks of working out of a co-working space includes endless networking opportunities, with different people from diverse fields working under the same roof. Managed space providers are constantly looking out for more avenues for enhancing community collaborations. Space providers are yet to come out with a unifying platform for facilitating B2B collaborations.

With the cultural shift in the way people work, co-working is becoming a one-stop solution to all office needs, complete with collaboration opportunities, employee engagement activities and modern amenities. Co-working spaces are constantly innovating to provide an elevating work experience to ensure employee happiness and wellbeing. Even though, the sector is gaining popularity owing to the lower costs, workspace flexibility, skill-sharing workshops and a greater emphasis on employee engagement and wellbeing activities, there are still a lot of growth opportunities that are yet to be leveraged.

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