Depending on where you live you might see more laptops than usual at your local coffee shop these days.
More people are ditching the office as we know it, and it’s not just freelancers and cash-poor start-ups that can’t afford the rent.
Within the next three years it’s estimated that almost 40 percent of the global workforce will work remotely. That’s fueling the growth of companies that offer a whole new kind of office space, on demand.
James Cohane is one of more than 40 million Americans who work outside an office. “I’m consulting with a start-up that’s actually based down in New York,” Cohane says. He recently moved to Boston and, at first, he tried working from home. “There’s a lot of distractions there plus it’s kinda depressing, and I’m infinitely more productive here than I am at home,” he explains.
For Cohane “here” is a desk at Oficio, one of a handful of new co-working sites in Boston. The space looks like an art gallery with its high ceilings, white walls, and bright natural light from a huge wall of windows.
Co-founder Nima Yadollahpour says Oficio has 400 members — freelancers and other mobile workers — who can rent a desk or a private office. They can buy a day pass for $30. “Our cheapest monthly membership is $99, which gives you access to the space, gives you conference room hours, access to printers, everything,” says Yadollahpour. “You can’t get an office for that anywhere.”
Oficio clients range from freelance photographers to a guy who sells private jets. The co-working concept dates back to the late ’90s, but that was before everyone had cell phones, laptop, and tablets. Now wifi is everywhere, too, and hundreds of co-working locations have opened around the country.
“We believe our country, our society, our economy is on the cusp of a once in a century shift in how, where, and why we work,” says Jeremy Neuner, CEO of NextSpace. The small chain has sites in California and it’s now expanding into the Midwest.
Neuner says co-working is more than just a post-recession fad among freelancers. A growing number of corporations are experimenting with workplace mobility. The global consulting firm Accenture lets employees use an app called LiquidSpace to book co-working sites.
“The reality is that all people are different,” says LiquidSpace CEO Mark Gilbreath. “So the best way to get great work out of them is to allow them to find and choose the environment that best fits how they work.”
At some co-working sites that environment comes with lots of perks you won’t get in a regular office; there’s everything from free cappuccino to childcare.