The Evolution of Shared Office Spaces

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Co-working spaces have been all the fuss in the business world for a bit over a decade now. With businesses constantly trying to find a newer, better and more efficient office layout, the idea has sparked interest worldwide, especially in global financial cities like Hong Kong. As we’ve mentioned in previous article, co-working comes with a whole slew of benefits that aim to blissfully merge the benefits of private office and open workspaces intended for collaboration and networking. But as with many things in life, the first iteration of an idea is never perfect, and there certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all when it comes to co-working venues. But what has co-working come to embody in recent years, where did it come from and what will it look like going into 2020?

Where it all began

The very first co-working space opened in 2005, named the San Francisco Coworking Space at Spiral Muse. The idea was coined by Brad Neuberg, who conceptualized co-working as a solution for the perfect work environment in the search of a way to combine the freedom and independence of working alone with the community, sociability and structure of working with others. Opting for an open-source nature to the idea, it very quickly spread over the globe and the phenomenon has changed the way many of us view work environments.

What co-working has come to represent

Since then, co-working spaces have grown exponentially and become a huge part of modern work environments, occupying over 2 million square feet of space in Hong Kong alone. But the traditional co-working space environment that first became popular isn’t always what we see today. With early coworking spaces taking up trendy and chic locations aimed squarely at freelancers, early stage startups and small businesses, co-working spaces have evolved massively over the years. Now, they present a fully-fledged alternative to traditional office spaces even in the heart of central business districts around the world. These more ‘classic’ co-working spaces often feature a wide array of lifestyle factors such as areas to socialize, cafes, and group activities alongside warm, homely colors. While this catered perfectly for a niche group of people, it was far from a solution for the many problems of typical office spaces such as a lack of flexibility, productivity and networking potential.


Co-work 2.0: What is it?

One of the key features that more modern co-working spaces are starting to champion above all else is productivity. These spaces have identified a lack of productivity as one of the pain-points that the first style of open workspaces suffered from. According to Inc Magazine, 83% of workers nowadays do not think they need to be in a traditional office to work effectively anymore, suggesting that companies will start to shift to more collaborative office space models to combat low morale and productivity. But a co-working space with abundant lifestyle factors isn’t exactly the epitome of productivity – and that’s where the concept of co-work 2.0 comes in. Representing a new style of co-working, it strips classic co-working of unnecessary lifestyle elements such as table tennis and pool tables, instead replacing it with a focus on simplicity and raw productivity.


But if modern co-working spaces are tending towards the characteristics of co-work 2.0 by downplaying and minimizing of lifestyle factors and distractions, something must fill the gap. At theDesk, we have chosen to instead base our locations in a diverse range of lively neighborhoods such as Sai Wan, Causeway Bay, Sheung Wan, and of course in Admiralty at the heart of Hong Kong’s central business district. Having premium facilities in a premium location is something that historically has been hard to achieve for anyone other than the huge, multinational companies occupying financial districts. But co-work 2.0 has opened the door to many more.

The idea is that within this shared neighborhood, members of the co-working space can head outside and easily find all the lifestyle facilities they want within a few minutes’ walk without compromising a productive work environment. And the importance of productivity is not something to be understated, providing benefits for the employee, employer and even customer. An employee is essentially an investment for a company, and a productive workspace means efficient work and a great return on that investment. For the employee, productivity is directly correlated with higher morale and a greater sense of accomplishment. As a self-perpetuating circle, this in turn makes for better customer relations and more business.


The core notion behind the minimalism is to provide a blank canvas for each of the members to inhabit and make their own. And the results are what you’d expect: with more and more members joining a co-work 2.0 environment, they’re greeted with the productive environment they need alongside all the usual benefits of co-working spaces such as lease flexibility, easily customizable spaces, open office spaces for networking and collaboration, event spaces, hands-off management and the fostering of an incredibly inclusive community of like-minded members.

The main takeaway from all this? That co-working spaces have undergone a rapid evolutionary phase thanks to it being a global phenomenon and answer to the perfect working environment. Even though they started out as hip and chic backstreet locations catering to the creative and freelance crowd, they’ve evolved to expand their potential members to far more businesses looking for a productive work environment. These spaces embody the idea of co-work 2.0 and aim to bring together the best of the early shared spaces and old-school offices.

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