China’s co-working spaces market will continue to flourish in a more rational way, as leading operators, many of which felt the pinch during last year’s drought in financing, are shifting focus from ambitious expansion plans to offering clients better services, aiming for longer term growth, according to recruitment expert Hays.
As the use of co-working spaces is on the rise, Hays also shares several pros and cons to consider before companies embrace this new trend.
“Communal workspaces are not just for start-ups anymore,” says Simon Lance, Managing Director of Hays Greater China. “Big business is embracing the co-working phenomenon, but it’s not for everyone.”
According to the latest Hays Journal, which explores this issue, co-working chains have grown rapidly. GCUC, a co-working conference company, and Emergent Research, a research and consulting firm, found that there were 11,790 co-working spaces globally in 2017, with 1.74 million members. They expect membership to rise to 5.1 million by 2022.
In China, Co-working office turnover surged 87.3 percent year-on-year in 2018, significantly above the 42 percent y-o-y growth for the overall sharing economy turnover, according to the State Information Center.
The estimated number of Chinese unicorns and start-ups, that has grown nearly 40-fold from two in 2013 to 82 in March, are a major drive of co-working office demand.
Yet in 2018, a drought in financing from venture capitalists has affected China’s co-working space operators who have been heavily reliant on funding to fuel their rapid expansion and valuation, the South China Morning Post reported earlier this year.
Forty companies in the shared-office sector have vanished in the 10 months from January to October 2018, while about 40 percent of coworking projects are more than half empty, the Hong Kong-based newspaper said, quoting the China Real Estate Chamber of Commerce (CRECC).
The combined area of co-working space in four first-tier cities in China surged by almost 60 percent between the end of 2017 and October last year, according to the CRECC.
Co-working space operators in China are shifting their focus from ambitious expansion plans to services such as customizing offices for clients, as rising vacancy rates and tighter financing slow their exponential growth of the past two years, as Reuters reported.
“The market for co-working spaces in China had undergone remarkable growth before 2018. Despite of the drought in financing that has brought some impact, the market will continue to flourish, but in a more rational way,” Simon says.
“The opportunity to network is a big attraction of co-working spaces,” says Simon. “Most co-working companies want to foster a community and many use open-plan desks, as well as hosting regular social events, wellness sessions, product launches and investor meetings.
“The open layout of co-working spaces also leads to a more collaborative, personal and socially dynamic culture within an organisation.
“Just make sure you find out which other businesses are in the space before you sign up, and whether they align with your goals,” advises Simon.
Another benefit is the opportunity to spot emerging business opportunities. According to the Hays Journal, professional services firm KPMG is one example of an organisation working along start-ups in co-working spaces to spot emerging trends and opportunities to support them earlier in their lifecycle. Kirsty Mitchell, Director of Growth for KPMG in the UK, says: “By placing small KPMG teams into co-working spaces, we are part of a fast-paced ecosystem, working daily with businesses to help them as they grow, and to identify key issues and opportunities for them as they arise.”
She believes these environments could help KPMG project teams come up with new solutions to problems as well, rather than internal project rooms which, she suggests, can stifle creativity.
“We are not all the same and to be effective a co-working space must therefore be able to adapt to the needs of individual tenants and their staff,” warns Simon. “This includes ensuring there are enough meeting rooms and private areas in which to meet clients or have private conversations.
“If you don’t take the appropriate steps, the culture of the co-working company can become more dominant than the employer’s. Regular video conferences with your head office team and private offices within co-working spaces can help to minimise this risk.”
A private office within a co-working space also addresses some of the other common drawbacks of co-working: overcrowding, noise, mess and lack of privacy.
New to co-working? Here’s how to make the transition
If you think co-working might be for you or you’ve accepted a job that’s based in a co-working space, these tips will help you make the transition seamlessly:
· Make the effort to introduce yourself to your fellow co-workers – first impressions count;
· Set a routine as quickly as you can. You will have more flexibility in a co-working space, so it’s important that you are diligent and mindful of your time – otherwise, your productivity could suffer;
· Make the most of the opportunity to work with different people each day to build your network, upskill and make new contacts. Many co-working spaces run regular networking and office events, so head along to these wherever possible;
· Make your desk feel like home – experiment with different areas of the shared working space and see what works best for you;
· Get to know the office/community manager – having a good relationship with them will make it easier to get help from them if the printer breaks or the Wi-Fi goes down;
· Move to a quieter space if you know you are going to be on a long conference/video call that could be distracting for your co-workers;
· If you are working for a brand, keep your employer front of mind, rather than the culture of the office space you’re working in. It can be easy to feel detached, but regular communications and face-to-face meetings should help;
· Eat away from your desk and take breaks out of the office. In many co-working spaces, everything is under one roof, so it can feel like there’s no need to get out, but the truth is that you do need to get out for your own wellbeing.