Is Coworking the future of Workplace?

When we started our Architectural Firm, we received calls to congratulate us. But then there was one question that everyone had. Why a coworking space? Is it not going to be costly? Why not your own office?

Traditional Small Office Bottlenecks

We, too, had the same dilemma. But my experience of running another architectural firm in a small commercial building had its challenges. We just had enough space for workstations, a dining table and an attached Toilet. Now for an architectural firm like ours, the strength is in our team. To offer a fantastic experience for our clients, we need to hire the best talent. And this talent often joins from well-established firms. These firms have in-house game areas, libraries, ample dining areas, meeting rooms and large conference rooms.

If you make such talent work in a small office with none of the above, they may see it as a downgrade in their career. A right package can be an incentive to switch, but a sense of pride in the place you work helps in talent retention.

As you succeed in business, growth is inevitable. We had to accommodate more people in the same space, and we ended in giving up our dining area. But with time, even this was short. Also, moving to a larger space in a short time was like letting go of all the investments we had made setting up the office. The other option was to set another team somewhere else, but this leads to fragmentation.

Now, our focus was on business growth. However, resolving housekeeping issues, dealing with problematic airconditioning, and unstable connectivity was drawing energy away. Also, as architects, sometimes we do work late hours. Our premises lacked 24/7 security and would be pitch black in the corridors post 10:00 pm. For us, this was a safety concern.

Exploring the Coworking Concept

As I moved on to lead a new US firm, I started looking out for a new office option. Enriched with all the previous firm’s learning, I knew that setting up your own office till you settle with a team count made no sense. Hence, we started exploring the coworking concept.

Our primary interest in coworking space was our ease of expansion and starting immediately without spending months on setup. Also, access to meeting rooms and dining area was in our consideration.

Why Coworking?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored section by WeWork. All opinions expressed are purely intended to offer you insights on what experience you can expect in an international coworking environment.

What impressed us about brands like WeWork is its vibrance and energies. Its space design seems very warm, trendy, and arty. During my business trip, I have visited WeWork in San Francisco and New York, and it was nice to see the same international standards in India. Today’s work culture centers around a more inclusive and team-centric approach. We felt, WeWork offers that openness in its feel, which one may want to communicate to the team.

We can say that the biggest strength WeWork has is in its community and managers. The folks running WeWork are young, often internationally educated, and well-travelled to have a global perspective. While choosing a coworking space, I have visited other brands, but the WeWork community’s experience is unmatched. They are very warm and friendly yet professional.

Great interviews are mostly informal. Thus, the candidates are more comfortable, and our interactions more engaging. With lots of cozy lounge areas at WeWork, the candidate ends up saying, “This is the best Architectural office I have ever been to!”

When you can refresh yourself at your office by playing Foosball or Table Tennis after a strong coffee or relaxing next to a swimming pool after a busy day, who won’t wait for Monday? There are continuous ongoing community events at these Coworking spaces to engage the team, and one can enjoy the parties that they throw often!

Those who love having lunch together in large groups can use the dining areas with a fully equipped Pantry on every floor. Whenever you may feel hungry, there is a self-service kiosk for meals or snacks. Now, if you overeat, visit the in-house gym to shed calories! Honestly, if you tell your team that you are moving to your own office, I am sure they will seriously get disappointed.

Coworking meeting room

Collaboration and interactions are the constant nature of a modern workflow. And having fully equipped meeting rooms of every size makes it possible. Be it one-on-one to resolve team issues, a whiteboard and TV for building project strategy, or a large conference to address the whole team.

Just any issue one may have, be it office temperature or spilling something on the floor, you need not leave the desk. Coworking spaces like WeWork have an app and also has a member portal. Raise a ticket, and someone will attend to you immediately.

Now, if someone is planning to visit you, register them as a guest. A notification will show up with their photo as soon as they arrive. Also, there are several checkpoints for security. Unregistered guests are not allowed access beyond the reception unless you escort them. With 24/7 security and well-lit corridors, it never bothers working late if needed.

While setting up the US Firm, our original plan was to spend a year in coworking space and then move to our own office. But, with this fantastic experience, we made up our mind in the first three months itself. Our workplace was going to be in a coworking the way ahead.

Does being in a Coworking environment impact your Brand Image?

Not really. In fact, you do feel great to share your floor with leading brands in Coffeehouse, Online Retail giants or Media houses. The community vibes make you feel grander. For sure, your guest will compliment you for working in a stunning place.

Is it Cost-Effective?

That’s a big question. We have done our math before making this decision. If you factor in the upfront investment one needs to make to set up the office and monthly rentals, it is considerable. Now add lease line internet bill, electrical bills, printer cost, supplies, cost and effort to maintain a housekeeping team, and it turns out to be very close. If we have to provide all recreational and utility areas in-house, it would considerably add to the monthly rent. If you want to give a great experience to your team, it is cost-effective.

Is Coworking a must go for Startups?

Today’s world is about branding. Your brand is all about what vision you share with your potential team and clients as a startup. Now, starting from your bedroom is okay while strategizing. However, you cannot attract a great team or clients from there. You have to get out.

We have already discussed what challenges you may face having your own office to start with. The most significant advantage of coworking is skipping the high initial setup cost of your own workplace. You can very well use this cash to sustain yourself longer. The expansion will be easy, and you can offer a far richer and professional experience to your team and clients. Also, being surrounded by other entrepreneurs does feel lively and helps networking.

If you wish to appear more organized and more massive than what you actually are, the bottom line is, go for coworking.

Is Coworking a paradigm shift in Enterprise Workplace?

We live in volatile times, and the volatility is here to stay. To stay relevant, you have to continuously reinvent yourself. And that included your strategy for the workplace. In response to emerging markets, expansion is seen as a sign of growth. But, this growth is also dependant on the success of a product or service.

Coworking allows the flexibility to respond to demands quickly and in both directions. Many coworking brands offer custom layout in return for a time commitment. With a lower Capex to start and the possibility of setting up a team instantly, you should be able to respond to the market quickly.

Our take

Today, setting up and running The ArchBOX Studio is an exciting challenge in itself. As an architectural firm, our focus is on building an inspiring work environment for our team. We are driven to offer a fantastic experience for our clients and their success. Our focus is on Architecture.

But the big question is, do we wish to be distracted in running and maintaining a workplace. What effort will it take to offer an all-around experience to our team in our own independent office? And at what cost?

A coworking space allows us to ‘Do what we love!’, and that is Architecture.

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Prathamesh Kudtarkar

Prathamesh Kudtarkar

As Managing Principal, Prathamesh is responsible for strategic direction, operations, and overall performance of The ArchBOX Studio.