China has witnessed a huge boom of co-working spaces in recent years with hundreds of thousands of operators emerging. However, co-working is not only a trend that has emerged in China, but has developed along with global trends.
At the Co-working China Forum, Claire Stephens, Head of Workplace Strategy at global real estate services firm, shared insight on China’s co-working boom.
Sharing economy is changing people’s concepts of ‘ownership’
As the sharing economy takes root in China with increasing vigour, a growing number of Chinese customers are shifting to a collaborative consumption lifestyle. An iiMedia report shows that China’s total revenue from sharing economy is expected to reach RMB3.95 trillion (roughly US$633 billion) this year.
Co-working spaces are among the sectors that benefit most from this mindset change: from owning something to renting something.
“For many years, we had a lot of trouble encouraging people to do desk sharing, but suddenly people are actually asking whether they can have a Mobike for desks. This idea of a sharing economy, of communally using a space is really taking off. And that’s one of the reasons why co-working will potentially be very successful here if you getting the model right,” said Stephens.
Rise of the Millennial workforce
Millennials, who are taking an increasing portion in China’s business world, want a different type of experience in their working environment. They aren’t interested in status, but more about how an experience feels. Co-working offers flexibility, mobility, and a cachet that many young people are looking for.
“The generational difference makes people work differently so they prioritize different things at work,” Stephens says. “Millennials tend to be more community oriented, particularly with an online community, they are quite tribal as opposed to being identified with a particular company. They could be very loyal if they view that company as being one part of their tribe. So, making them identify with the space is very important.”
In line with China’s state support for mass entrepreneurship and innovation, the country is recording a rise of supporting industries that help to foster startups. Co-working spaces and incubating programs mushroomed to take advantage of this trend.
The technology element is crucial for successful co-working spaces
Technology is one the most important features in a co-working space. It is probably the one area where most operators fail.
“At the moment, there’re a lot of people setting up co-working environments which are essentially just nicely-designed business centers. It’s more about having an online and offline community, having people to reach out and use co-working and co-working environment not just when they are in the physical space, but also online.”
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