According to a 2019 survey by the Gensler Research Institute, workers who have access to a coworking space – even if they only use it for a few hours a week – typically perform better than employees who don’t have that same perk. Often thought of as spaces for freelancers and founders to set up shop, many corporates now see coworking spaces as an essential ingredient when it comes to driving innovation. Knight Frank says that 44% of global companies expect flexible space will make up at least a fifth of their office space by the end of next year.
Corporates who want to strike new partnerships or launch new products and services “really want to be able to [...] think like entrepreneurs”, Emma Mills-Sheffield, founder of business consultancy Mindsetup, observes. “But it’s really hard to think entrepreneurially when you’re really burdened with red-tape, hierarchy, and approval [processes].”
Getting out of the office and into an environment that emphasises collaboration, not just between team members but across organisations, she says, can be the key to empowering staff to adopt the elusive entrepreneurial mindset. “Giving them exposure to other businesses and how entrepreneurs work – there’s a richness to that. You can get a bit stuck between the four walls [of the HQ].”
To make the most of a hybrid model where the home, the HQ, and collaborative hubs are all part of the workspace mix, Ms Mills-Sheffield says it’s crucial to figure out where – among the options available – different types of work can be carried out most effectively. This could mean recognising – within each organisation – the most consequential social network brokers, which is to say those players who will benefit the most from making new connections and discovering opportunities to partner with entrepreneurs. Alternatively, it could mean identifying which teams are going to find being situated in a creative environment most useful.
For Accenture’s FinTech Innovation Lab, when it comes to helping start-ups hit their next stage of growth and create connections in the financial services world, coworking has long been or the team a no brainer. The 12-week accelerator programme has been successfully held at Huckletree's Shoreditch for a few years now.
“We decided to go for a coworking space because it takes you out of that corporate mindset,” says Celin Phoen, the FinTech Innovation Lab’s programme manager. “It’s really underplayed how a physical space can change your attitude, and it’s fun being [somewhere] that is very open plan, has a lot of greenery and colour, and events going on where you can meet people from different businesses.”
For Ms Phoen, the ability to move between different working environments within the same building not only provides the headspace needed to think more creatively but it also makes it easier to create the connections the Lab needs to work as effectively as possible. Instead of fighting for meeting rooms in a traditional HQ, communal events spaces like The Classroom provide a neutral ground for corporates and startups to convene for workshops and demo days, and share ideas and fresh perspectives.
It’s estimated that 40% of demand for coworking spaces is now coming from large corporates, with the likes of Adidas, American Express, and Microsoft currently seeking spaces outside of their HQs to help nurture inspiration.
“Most corporates are focussed around efficiency, whereas Huckletree is fostering creativity and collaboration,” Ms Phoen concludes. “It speaks to innovation so much more than your classic workspace.”