For those who choose to co-work when running a remote team of growing startups, small businesses and large corporations offering flexibility and autonomy, the spectacular growth of the co-working market seems to know no bounds.


Linda Trim, Director at FutureSpace, a high-end workspace joint venture between Investec Property and workplace specialist Giant Leap, said that according to a Global Co-working Unconference (the largest co-working series in the world) forecast, by 2022 there will be 30 432 spaces and 5.1 million paid co-working members worldwide.


Said Trim: “The market shows an average annual growth rate of 24.2 % since 2007, and is less a way of working now than a way of life.”So what’s behind the explosion and what does it mean for South Africa?

“There are so many benefits to co-working,” noted Trim. As demand for workplace flexibility increases, corporations are turning to coworking to solve the problem of rising commercial space costs while staying agile.”


She added that shared workspaces are an energising, open and supportive environment for those who are not ready for their own office or enjoy the flux and energy of shared space. “It is precisely this flexibility that is so attractive for small businesses and entrepreneurs as they build. For startups, the co-working solution ticks all the boxes of flexible, affordable space and a creative hub to foster new ideas and new business.”


The self-employed knowledge worker sector is growing too, bringing with it the need for hubs to provide social interaction, alternative locations rather than cramped office desks or coffee shops, and clusters of interactions for connectivity. So, if this market continues to grow and thrive as all the signs indicate, what is the impact on innovation? For innovation to be successful, the ability to bounce ideas and to foster a culture of creativity is only part of the picture.


“Collaboration is also crucial to innovation, and it’s precisely this element that co-working provides,” said Trim. “The need to build links has always been a key part of the business, but open innovation speeds up development. This means networking with people both inside and outside of your organisation, making co-working a powerful catalyst.”


Creating an incubator culture through co-working also has an impact on the speed of growth and success rate of startups. Co-working members grow through collaboration with the space operator where opportunities allow. This gives startups the chance to showcase their businesses to a wider audience that they may not otherwise have had access to.


“Startups fail slowly when they’re alone and can’t get impartial feedback. They fail quickly when they have access to objective, well-intentioned feedback from fellow co-workers,” Trim added.


“A high quality shared office provider will recognise your business model and growth ambitions and offer a rich and compelling program of networking events.”By creating introductions and helping to build networks, entrepreneurs have more time to focus on innovation which is often the motivation to run their own businesses in the first place.


“As the co-working model continues to grow and diversify in South Africa, we can expect to see more opportunities and models for startup open cultural innovation around the country,” Trim concluded.