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Corporate vs. Coworking Culture: forever rivals or future partners?

At FastTrack, our typical client is a large organization, whilst our typical work environment is the coworking space! We have supported the coworking movement since the early days (actively engaged since 2008), and in recent years, we have accompanied several clients in the transformation of their work culture…

We see that more and more often, large organizations are rethinking their workplaces. Key drivers are mobility and space management, and the related financial and productivity benefits, but also a willingness to evolve towards a more collaborative, open, sharing, and transparent work culture.

On the other hand, coworking is a new way of working whereby the workplace is shared by mostly self-employed people, not only sharing space and equipment, but also ideas and knowledge. In the coworking culture, sharing and collaboration are natural…

Although strongly associated with startups and the entrepreneurial way of working, we now see some organizations encouraging coworking for reasons of economy and flexibility, and also to increase their employee’s creativity through a better work experience…

So what is the future of the workspace: Will larger organizations open their own coworking spaces and, in doing so, compete against the coworking movement? Or will corporate employees become coworking spaces’ best clients??

Recently, some larger corporations have opened their own coworking spaces. For example, State Farm Insurance has opened Next Door in Chicago. It’s a cafe concept where you can meet financial coaches, take classes or work on your projects. The service is free, except for the coffee. Their philosophy is: “We help you. You help us innovate. We’re all smarter for it. We think it’s a win-win”

Google Inc. and Pearson PLC are founding sponsors of TechHub, a coworking space for technology startups in London. They make workplaces available, enabling people to meet, collaborate, work and network. They say that “by getting the right people together in a physical space, good things happen”

PepsiCo is partnering with WeWork Labs to tap the startup culture. In the past, PepsiCo was relying on creative agencies to bring in new ideas. Now, they count on startups. PepsiCo thinks that part of its future innovation will be initiated by startups. Employees have the possibility to use the coworking space, where they can support entrepreneurs and have them meet specialists when needed. It’s a way for PepsiCo employees to get new inspiration from the entrepreneurial world…

Of course, these examples raise a lot of questions, such as:
  • Will larger organizations invest in/create partnerships with coworking spaces? And if they do so, how will coworking (culture) survive, given the balance of power??
  • Will these organizations offer part of their workplace to freelancers? And if employees and freelance workers mingle, how about the protection of intellectual property??
  • The benefits for the corporates – easy access to entrepreneurial talent – are quite clear! But how about the benefits for the entrepreneur? And for the coworking space??
  • Etc.
We are pursuing our research in this area, whilst working with our clients on their transformation to the New World of Work (NWoW). We will also be exploring these and related questions at the Coworking Europe Conference in Milano this week, where we participate in a panel on this subject… And of course, we would love to hear about your own experience and/or opinion on corporate vs. coworking culture! Please feel free to comment below or via twitter@SylvieDbg
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