Currently there are 53 million Americans freelancing, making up 34% of the total workforce, with freelancers predicted to make up 50% of the US workforce by 2020. With companies embracing remote-working for their employees (and making large savings on real estate costs), new start-ups have cropped up intuiting that there is a growing market for remote workers who will regularly need an office space on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. According to Forbes:
“Full-time corporate office use fell from 80% in 2010 to 72% in 2012, with factors like rising real estate costs, government directives to reduce real estate expenses, a changing workforce and the proliferation of mobile devices fuelling the trend.”
Professional freelancers who were long accustomed to working from home, which realistically has never been ideal for productivity, or cafes; noted by many as unsuitable due to unreliable Wi-Fi and noise distractions, were the initial target market for these companies offering shared office spaces.
However the co-working movement has taken this idea of sharing office space to the next level- providing spaces for different segments of the workforce, from creative spaces for artists to communities attracting female entrepreneurs. A Philadelphia based company The Hive, recently opened their first women-only co-working space, and the start-up is already on the hunt for their second location.
Productivity perhaps remain one of the big attractions of these spaces, described as ‘soft accountability’ by start-up SpareChair owner Sharona Coutts, as “the social pressure to be working simply because someone else is.” According to an article in Time.com “21% of U.S. sites explicitly market to remote workers, and one-third of our survey respondents were employed full-time by some other company. On average, these individuals are spending 65% of their time working from a coworking space.”
Forbes.com predicted that next year global companies will continue to “leverage independent workers – but at a much more intensive and frequent basis.” This means there will be a growing number of professionals no longer tied to an office desk that will be attracted to using these coworking spaces both as a tool for productivity, and the sense of community and networking opportunities these spaces promise to foster. As the freelance economy continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how these coworking spaces will evolve to cater for the different segments of the workforce that increasingly work remotely.