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Coworking spaces: A generational melting pot

Once associated with ‘trendy startups’ and millennial culture, the coworking office is instead becoming a hub for the largest cross section of generations working together than in any other type of space.

Coworking hubs are hugely diverse spaces, and can now cater to everything from the business-minded Baby Boomers to the educated and entitled Generation Y.

coworking spaces

Michael Dubicki, business development director at Flexioffices:

“Coworking spaces bring together the old and new: they are no longer one-dimensional products housing an army of start-up ‘techs’ – instead, they have evolved into a vast network and knowledge sharing opportunity which is generating new business at a scale hitherto unseen.”

Flexioffices has been bringing industry leaders together to trace what’s behind this new kind of environment, and to find out what this means for the way we work.

For Alessa, head of community at The Office Group, the root cause lies in the 2008 financial crisis:

“After the recession, there was a huge increase of people in their 30s and 40s who were laid off and decided to go it alone and start their own business. When they needed to move out of their living room, most of them ended up in a coworking space. This was hugely beneficial, albeit an incredibly daunting step.”

“Simultaneously, more students than ever are graduating with the view of starting their own business (not really a thing when I graduated), which has resulted in more generations than ever before sharing a workspace and therefore creating interesting, dynamic and inclusive communities.”

Thrown together in the coworking environment, these two groups were at odds at first. Although the older generation are old hands in terms of business experience, coworking spaces are unfamiliar territory for those accustomed to a typical corporate scenario. For the newly graduated entrepreneurs however, coworking spaces are familiar extensions of the university campus.

As this work culture becomes more common, they begin to present a knowledge-sharing opportunity to both groups. Older colleagues are finding themselves surrounded by a generation raised on the internet, where flexible, technological business solutions are second nature. On the other hand, younger generations – less experienced in the people-focused business world – are able to learn from the years of business and boardroom knowledge of their more experienced workmates.

Progress in business can be helped along by the mediating presence of the other generation and conversations happening between can then create a sense of community and network that is mutually beneficial. This clash of generations has resulted in a workspace filled with interesting, dynamic and inclusive communities.

Now, 10 years on from the 2008 crash, the demands of the younger generations have had a profound impact on the working environment. Generation Y is the most educated and privileged generation and the work / life balance is becoming ever more fluid. It now appears that across the generations, expectations of the workplace are higher than ever.

Janet Davies, communications director at Office Space In Town:

“It’s no longer enough to simply provide four walls, a phone and an ergonomic keyboard, these are not what people are looking for. Their experience in other areas of life has improved – we mostly live in much nicer homes now. It’s much the same in the hospitality industry: there was a time when you wouldn’t consider a holiday in Britain, as the general standard of hotels and B&Bs was very low. Nowadays when we go on holiday we want to go someplace which is at least as nice as our own home, if not better – the UK hospitality industry as well as that overseas has completely upped its game. This has, by extension, had a profound effect on the serviced office industry, and on the environment we expect to work in.”

Younger generations are expecting more and the older generation don’t want to return to the three-wall stack of cubes of the old corporate world. As a result, employers are increasingly focusing on agile working and enriching an engaging workplace. These features have become a stable “perk” for many.

Michael Dubicki, business development director at Flexioffices:

“Coworking (and the flexible office market in general) has bridged the gap between existing legacy infrastructure and the ‘new norm’ of inspirational working environments. This satisfies new start-ups who crave and expect this style of space from the get-go, but also established corporations with a desire to offer a different way of working to its people without spending huge sums on refitting their old offices.”

The concept of work and the workplace is evolving into something new. Coworking spaces now support a huge network of colleagues and entrepreneurs representing all industries and age groups.

This cross generation work style is giving a new meaning to work communities and is opening up coworking to more people than ever.

Flexioffices is the UK’s leading service office provider, giving a complete an impartial overview of the across the whole of the UK serviced office market.