The sharing economy has really taken flight in China over the last several years and this constituent of the economy is expected to remain a fundamental part of China’s ‘new’ economy in the coming years. Thanks to the substantial financial backing from corporates, investment and venture capital firms, sharing economy start-ups have emerged in different sectors – from bike-sharing to umbrellas for rent to even shared mobile phone power banks. Throughout the sharing economy, the co-working office sector is among the fastest growing, expanding from a few sizeable venues just a few years ago to 546 locations in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Taipei as of end-Q1 2018.
Over the past couple of years, co-working office space in China has increasingly become popular with a plethora of users. In this article we’re taking a look at seven key benefits of co-working that are driving adoption in China, and two areas that co-working spaces still need to work in if they are to broaden their appeal.
Purchasing co-working membership is an effective solution to cost savings for many businesses and individual users in China. It avoids the expenses incurred by renting, such as fit-out costs, furnishing costs, rental, management fees, utility charges, cleaning, etc. At the same time, users can occupy quality workplaces and enjoy a number of services, which can help further reduce their overall business operation costs.
One point to note, however, is membership cost often is tiered. Moving up a level will mean you will have access to a greater amount of space, amenities and services, but it will cost more.
Lease and space flexibility
Co-working offices generally allow for greater lease terms and space flexibility when compared to traditional offices. Often it is hard for established users to forecast future business growth, especially in China where growth for many businesses has been phenomenal over the last few years. With shorter-term membership contracts and workspaces which can be quickly adjusted in size, co-working offices can rapidly adapt to changes in space demand from users as their business headcounts suddenly grow…or contract.
Within many co-working offices in China, there is a variety of different spaces on offer, where users can work, relax or interact. What’s more, within the major cities, co-working operators have a variety of locations for users to choose from. They can use different offices and different spaces within those offices on a daily basis. This mix-and-match variety can stimulate both productivity and creative thinking, which are two key components for any successful business.
Support systems (Business financing and a digital ‘community’ platform)
Starting out in business is not a ride in the park. Any help is golden, and many co-working operators in China recognize this. Some operators will assist an enterprise using their space with some ‘angel’ financing, if they deem there is potential for viable business growth. Others provide direct business advice and/or a digital ‘community’ platform where members can access business advice, or bounce ideas around, or simply book a meeting room.
Collisions and connections
Co-working offices are simply designed and built to produce a collision of people. Networking, connections and interaction are the lifeblood of co-working offices, and this is a key attraction for users throughout the China region.
Whether it is a member learning from another member to improve his or her skill set or an enterprise learning from another enterprise to improve a product, the shared learning experience on offer is a key consideration for users to join and remain at co-working centers in China. Learning can be shared on a one-to-one basis, during a business lecture or even via the center online ‘community’ platform.
Millennials and their lifestyle
Finally, the millennial generation is fast becoming a major employee component in the overall workforce in China. Millennials tend to be much more accepting of a flexible working style offered by co-working operators rather than one evident in more traditional enterprises occupying conventional offices. The way a co-working office is designed and operated is much more in tune with what this generation is expecting out of their working lives, and they see working within this environment and space as an extension of their lifestyle.
Areas for Development
Distractions and a lack of privacy
While several co-working operators in China offer space kitted out with private workrooms, typically users in the region will be working in a shared open space. In these work environments, it is often hard to focus on the task at hand when there are so many people interacting with each other all around you. These distractions and lack of privacy can impact user productivity.
Open space work areas in co-working offices in China often lack privacy, and this can sometimes be detrimental for information security. In such a surrounding, it is easier for sensitive business information, such as business contracts, to be unwittingly shared with a competitor or gained through working cheek-by-jowl with other members. Additionally, if external security is lacking, outsiders might be able to gain access to a center, which will lead to a concern in terms of the security of not only sensitive business information but also the security of members’ equipment and personal belongings.
For more on how smart, sharing, and green trends are shaping China’s economy, download our full report.