As KC celebrates coworking, report predicts shared workspace boom

Over the past week, coworking spaces from across the Kansas City area participated in KC Coworking Week, a joint effort to increase awareness of the city’s shared workspaces.

“We want people to know the general idea of coworking,” said Melissa Saubers, founder of Cowork Waldo, one of the participating spaces.

If a report released earlier this month is any indication, the number of people familiar with coworking could increase significantly in the next few years.

The number of coworking spaces worldwide is projected to reach 26,000 by 2020, up from just more than 11,000 this year, according to the report from California-based research and consulting firm Emergent Research. The same report projects the number of global coworking memberships will increase to 3.8 million by 2020, up from about 1 million this year.

That growth corresponds with the emergence of the on-demand, or gig, economy. An estimated 7.6 million Americans will work on-demand jobs in 2020, Emergent said in an August 2015 forecast, up from 3.2 million at that time.

With changes to the nature of work and production, the structure of offices is also evolving.

Melissa Saubers, Cowork Waldo founder | Courtesy of Melissa Saubers/LinkedIn
Melissa Saubers | Courtesy of Saubers/LinkedIn

People in the workforce today are increasingly interested in workplace flexibility, unlike previous generations that put a premium on stability, according to Stormy McBride, director of operations for the Global Coworking Unconference Conference. GCUC, a Texas-based outfit, organizes coworking conferences, and McBride also helps run coworking spaces.

In Kansas City, coworking venues have different amenities, space and features to offer to members, according to Sarah Fustine, vice president of the KC Coworking Alliance. They may provide open or dedicated space for tenants, and they offer varying lengths of memberships.

Cowork Waldo is one of the shared spaces in Kansas City. The companies and people that use the facility include software developers, salespeople, marketing specialists and and graphic designers. Saubers, Cowork Waldo’s founder, says it’s a neighborhood workspace that acts as a satellite office for different companies and people.

The space has 40 members, but not all of them have the same schedules, Saubers said. She opened Cowork Waldo three years ago and made sure it had the same offerings as traditional offices, including conference rooms and access to coffee shops.

It took a while for Cowork Waldo to grow, Saubers said, and she had to raise awareness about coworking to bring in new clients. She relied on social media, her website and word of mouth to attract new members.

Today, Cowork Waldo offers various monthly plans, ranging from $250 per month for a dedicated desk to cheaper part-time plans.

“Coworking is very different than renting an office or desk,” Saubers said. “It’s sort of like a gym membership for working.”

Saubers touts benefits of coworking like interaction with like-minded people, opportunities for networking and availability of resources.

Neither Saubers nor McBride seems concerned that the projected proliferation of coworking spaces will lead to an increase in competition for members.

Saubers believes the spaces are unique and attract different kinds of customers. “The more coworking spaces there are,” she said, “the more the market understands what (coworking) is and the needs of the customer.”

Said McBride: “We always say that coworking spaces are like ice cream flavors. They are all different, but there is a flavor … for everyone.”

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