By Adam Neuman, Co-Founder and CEO, WeWork
The world is experiencing cultural, technological and economic shifts that have ushered in a new approach to work and entrepreneurialism. Self-employment in the UK is rising faster than in any other Western European country and, according to IPPR, now accounts for 14% of the workforce. Furthermore, millennials are expected to account for more than 50% of the global workforce by 2020. This is having a big influence on the shifting attitudes to the way we work and the way we want to work. This generation of millennial workers are committed to pursuing their dreams and create businesses that they are truly passionate about, reflecting a larger macro lifestyle shift.
There are a number of factors that have contributed to this. The development of affordable technology and spread of internet connectivity means that entrepreneurs now have access to a wealth of information and data that they can access on a variety of devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets. The proliferation of cheap online tools and services has also meant startups can think big and stay connected to their network wherever they are. Another factor is the lowering barriers to entry, with better access to finance enabling entrepreneurs to get their ideas off the ground quicker.
Being a startup allows a level of flexibility and adaptability to respond quickly to developments in an industry, which large companies sometimes struggle to contend with. It also lends itself to collaboration and interaction with other like-minded entrepreneurs and individuals in other startups, which helps drive innovation and growth, and is a trait we are seeing emerging amongst millennials.
This underlying desire to collaborate has led to a rise in collaborative workspaces, and reflects the wider shift in attitudes to the way we work. According to Deskmag, there was an 83% increase in co-working spaces globally from February 2012 to February 2013. More and more, entrepreneurs want to be part of something bigger than themselves and their own endeavours — they want to be part of a community.
There are multiple benefits for startups in operating as part of a wider co-working business community. A recent study by the Harvard Business Review reported a 75% increase in productivity by workers since joining their co-working space, and an 80% increase in the size of business networks for companies operating within a co-working platform.
Working culture is also now one of the most important ways companies, and startups in particular, differentiate themselves. Being in an environment where you are able to draw on the expertise and ideas of others is an attractive prospect. It can help draw talent to your business, especially among the generation of millennials who are always seeking to learn, explore, and create.
Being part of such a community also addresses some of the other challenges faced by smaller companies. As a startup, your talent pool is often limited and sometimes you need advice on an issue facing your business that is outside your area of expertise. This is where using your local community can be really valuable. Some of the best decisions and insights come from talking to those not in your line of business who can see the bigger picture. For example, members may use one another as sounding boards/extensions of their business, often generating beneficial creative discussions.
So it is important to create strong communities in buildings of work. Bringing together like-minded creators inspires and empowers them to succeed. For example, hosting events that bring members together encourages these all-important discussions, build relationships and most importantly, build community.
Just as in a small, tight-knit village everyone supports one another, in business communities the same thing can happen. That said, just as in a village, you have to participate to make the most of being a part of the community in the first place. You have to be active, get to know your neighbours, and contribute to the atmosphere and overall creative flow of energy.
The co-working phenomenon is addressing some of the challenges and needs of today’s entrepreneurs and creators, but these go beyond just needing affordable space to work in. According to Bloomberg, 80% of startup businesses collapse in the first 18 months, so it is clear there is still more to be done.
Co-working spaces work best when they go beyond providing a physical space and also provide the infrastructure to support all of the key aspects of business development for members, including access to health care, IT support, payroll and legal services. It is about trying to find new ways of empowering entrepreneurs every day, to really make a difference by creating a community around them, and helping them focus all of their energies on building a successful business.
There's a new way of working in the world and it’s just better. For the millennials and everybody that understands collaboration and the sharing economy, community is the right way for them.