As founder of GCUC, the world’s largest coworking conference series, I travel the world learning about coworking. At the end of each year, I look ahead to where the coworking world is going and share my predictions for the coming year.
Last year’s Coworking Megatrend Predictions for 2018 focused on demand, the WeWork effect, scarcity of resources, and health. All of these are still relevant forces impacting the coworking world.
Looking Back on Our 2018 Predictions
Demand-wise, we called out consolidation of coworking and the rise of retail, coliving, hotels, malls and real estate. All of these are still happening and on-the-rise. Demand will continue to flourish with corporates sending workers into coworking spaces in record numbers.
We predicted off-the-charts growth for WeWork, as well as the company’s desire to cut out the broker. 2018 saw this and more, with Softbank looking to take a controlling share in the company and WeWork branching into investing and building from the ground up.Scarcity of resources continues to be a trend and we have yet to see a real staffing/recruitment play in the U.S., though we’ve seen some good solutions in London. Workspace giant WeWork is single-handedly taking down a great deal of design talent to meet their growing needs. Workspace health is more wellness focused now. This is a huge trend that will continue for quite some time as we move toward our workspaces making us healthier.
Megatrend Predictions for 2019
Now let’s dive into 2019.
The sleeping giant is awake. The real estate industry has finally figured out that coworking is not a fad or a little blip. Coworking is significantly impacting the industry and real estate insiders are not going to sit back and wait for it to go away. Perhaps coworking is the spark that was needed to revolutionize an industry that was content to rest on its laurels for far too long. CBRE launched its own coworking brand, much to the distaste of some loyal clients in the coworking industry who promptly fired them. Landlords and real estate companies are building their own brands and partnering with existing brands. We will see more and more of these offerings as the power shifts from the owner to the tenant.
We will continue to see niche spaces play a big role in coworking as competition becomes fierce. The rise of women-only coworking spaces continues, but we also see spaces for technology, industries, political movements etc.High-end luxury brands will continue to thrive, with brands finding new and inventive ways to set themselves apart. Hospitality will continue to be a big buzzword in our industry and we’ll see some exciting new brand entries.
With a maturing coworking market, free-flowing money, and a strong economy, we will continue to see brands grow, expand—including internationally—and consolidate. We’re already seeing new franchises such as Worklodge come to the market, and in China, URWork has almost run out of competitors to buy. In some tight markets, such as Austin, Texas and Singapore, brands will buy existing brands just to get a stake in the ground.
Brands that have been around for awhile are re-designing, adding more office space and updating their look. New spaces will look for new and inventive designs, as airports, hotels, apartment lobbies and shopping plazas are all beginning to morph into looking like coworking spaces. A focus on wellness will continue to make a huge impact on design, from the building, to the air, to the light. Being WELL Certified will be a big feather in your cap.
GCUC and the larger coworking movement will continue to beat the drum on the connection between health and the workplace. Our work is literally killing us. A recent study found that the workplace is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. With regards to mental health, we are facing a global crisis. The World Economic Forum reports that depression is the number one cause of ill-health and disability worldwide, with an estimated 300 million people suffering from it. To help bring attention to this global crisis, GCUC co-founded CheckYoMate, a campaign to bring awareness to the mental health crisis and to help destigmatize mental illness.
The conversation about what to call various workspaces all really started with WeWork identifying as a “coworking space” when they were really an office space company with about 10 percent of their spaces used for coworking. The traditional coworking industry, in general, appreciated them using the term because it helped raise awareness of this new way to work. Today, the serviced office industry has widely adopted the term coworking, but would like to change the definition. We agree with Steve King’s observation that “it’s not the coworking industry that needs a new name. It’s the commercial office space industry.” Call it what you may—flexible office, workspace as a service, business center or coworking—it’s all an indication of a huge shift and a new emergence in the market where the power shifts to the tenant.
Tools for Coworking
At the first GCUC in 2012, there were two options for software designed for coworking spaces. Today we have over 50 choices, with more on the way. Software, hardware and (finally) furniture is being designed for our industry. This trend will only continue. Brands are waking up to the fact that coworking spaces are a marketing goldmine. Coworking spaces are filled with early adopters, brand advocates and part of what we like to call the “recommendation culture.” Coworking spaces are where people discuss buying decisions, tools and the next app they’re downloading.
And Now for the Bombshell
Bye-bye office. When we began talking about the bell curve and coworking at that first GCUC, we were flatlined. Over the years, we’ve begun to see the rise of that line. We always knew coworking was going to be big, but we didn’t fully grasp how big.
Coworking will replace the office. You heard it here first. Coworking is the 4th industrial revolution and, as we’ve explained at GCUC for years, that revolution is being driven by the changing nature of work. The time will come when people don’t go to offices, they go to coworking spaces.
Liz Elam is the founder and producer of GCUC, the largest coworking conference series in the world. She operates a successful coworking brand of her own, Link Coworking, in Austin, Texas. She travels the world in a never-ending quest to promote the industry she loves and better understand the drivers and visionaries making it happen. You can catch her at an upcoming GCUC.