Coworking Taking Off in Asia
What role are coworking spaces playing, in creating a stronger business ecosystem within parts of Asia and Southeast Asia, and what impact are they having on the workplace environment?
Coworking first started to take off here in the US over a decade ago, and has since become pretty popular around the world. In recent years, parts of Asia and Southeast Asia have caught up with the coworking movement. With its low living costs, young tech-savvy workforce and digital infrastructure, Southeast Asia is fast becoming a popular hub for start-ups and digital nomads. Advances in technology are allowing this workforce to become increasingly mobile and, therefore, the importance of having a traditional office space is decreasing. Coworking spaces are now on the rise to meet the needs of this new and upcoming workforce.
Who Uses Coworking Spaces and How Can You Benefit?
These spaces serve as a touchpoint for startups and freelancers seeking to connect and network with others for support and to help them grow – encouraging a more collaborative culture. They were first embraced by freelancers, solo entrepreneurs, and remote workers who were in need of a flexible place to work – both while in their primary location and while traveling. It offers a cost-effective alternative to taking a long-term office space lease. It also offers a comfortable and distraction-free place to work outside of the house. However, it’s no longer only freelancers and digital nomads taking advantage of these facilities. Corporate coworking is a fast-growing global trend, with major corporations now getting involved. In general, this is attributed to a more flexible globalized workforce being fueled by technology and a new generation of workers – the millennials.
Coworking spaces meet a wide range of needs suited to many different types of businesses and workers, and some corporations are now strategically moving employees, teams, and departments into the spaces.
The appealing aspect of these spaces include the flexibility and autonomy that they provide workers with. Coworking, can help teams, as well as individuals feel free to work when, where and how they want and they can come and go as they please. This kind of structure gives employees the confidence in trust from their employers, and allows them the opportunity to become part of communities both internal and external to the company. Coworking is changing the way we work, and seems to set to continue in popularity around the world. Small business Labs forecasts a jump in the global number of co-working individuals from 976,000 in 2016 to over 3.8 million in 2020. In the same reports, it’s expected that global co-working spaces will also rise from just over 11,000 in 2016 to 26,000 in 2020.
The Rise of Coworking in Asia
The rapid rise of coworking spaces in Southeast Asia has been given credit to the young startup ecosystem and the heterogeneous nature of the markets within the region, by Forbes. This makes coworking spaces essential for startups looking to expand internationally - quickly, and network with local communities and talent. These workspaces provide businesses and individuals with all the necessary facilities, slashing the startups costs. In the past, coworking has been considered to be just a fad, however it is a way of working that is demonstrating to be one of the biggest changes to the modern workplace in recent years. Many of Asia’s coworking spaces are located in the populous and bustling cities, but now a growing number are setting up in more rural locations to meet the needs of digital nomads. Many of these individuals now entail the flexibility to work wherever there is wifi.
Contributing to the rise of Coworking in Asia, some governments in Southeast Asia are increasingly viewing coworking as a means to encourage entrepreneurship among citizens. For example, in Vietnam, policy makers are setting up coworking spaces for startup companies with initiatives in place with the goal of transforming Vietnam into a startup nation by 2020 and in Indonesia, the Global Entrepreneurship Program Indonesia (GEPI) offer coworking spaces for early-stage startups, as part of a wider global initiative formed to promote entrepreneurship among developing countries.
The Future of Coworking in Asia
Coworking is on the rise around the world, with much more interest and money being invested into these types of developments. However, will the future demand be there for the many new coworking developments in Asia? Although coworking is still a fairly new concept in Asia, the growing number of expat and local entrepreneurs are fueling the region’s start-up scene, giving significant contribution and potential to Asia’s future coworking growth. Asia has some of the fastest-growing economies and start-up ecosystems, with more and more investments being made into Asian tech. So, is this the beginning of the end for traditional offices? With rising rental and property prices - coworking does appear to offer an appealing solution to the challenges facing many businesses and individuals. As Southeast Asian markets grow, coworking spaces look set to continue to play a vital role in creating a stronger business ecosystem within the region…which may indeed eventually see the demise of the traditional workspace we know of today.