“This is the most exciting time in history to be a part of the workspace industry”-Jamie Russo, Enerspace
2015 was a big year for coworking expert Jamie Russo. The founder of Enerspace Coworking, was recently appointed the executive director of the Global Workspace Association, giving her the chance to bring the coworking movement into the greater community.
Enerspace was founded in 2011, with the first location in Chicago opening that same year and a Palo Alto location in June 2013. Enerspace places emphasis on workplace well-being, and provides various fitness courses right within the workplace.
We caught up with Jamie to talk about work/life development and the influence that shared workspace has had on the real estate market.
Hi, Jamie. You run a coworking space and you were also recently appointed Executive director of the Global Workspace Association. What would you say is the most interesting about experiencing the transitioning workplace?
In my opinion, this is the most exciting time in history to be a part of the workspace industry. The increase in flexible work policies on the corporate side, freelancers and small business owners embracing the shared economy and the technology to support mobile work, is driving a demand like never before.
As coworking spaces are cropping up left and right, how have these shared spaces influenced the real estate market?
Shared workspace, particularly in the form of executive suites, has been around for decades. What we’re seeing now is the modernization and popularization of this model due to almost unlimited mobility enabled by personal technology, the mainstream adoption of the shared economy. We are also seeing shifting expectations of workspace experience, which is driven by the Millennial generation.
The confluence of mobility and the rise of the shared economy is impacting the real estate market in several ways. Commercial real estate users, such as small business owners, startups, and large corporations, are now realizing that they are not tethered to a home or corporate office and that they want the flexibility to access on-demand workspaces that will fit their shifting geographic needs. The supply side is adjusting at various speeds to this shift. Shared workspace users are enjoying an increase in demand but also an increase in competitive pressure to be current in their design, amenities and focus on community-building.
How has the industry already started to adapt to the shared workspace model, and what needs to be improved?
Commercial real estate still loves a high-credit, long-term lease. But that world is starting to realize that even those tenants want contemporary, flexible space with shared amenities and community space within the building.
Liquidspace just launched a program called altSpace, with locations in San Francisco and Mountain View. These spaces are in partnership with The Swig Company, a progressive corporate real estate company looking for ways to monetize unused building space and experiment with flexible office space.
I think over the next few years, we’ll see an increase in corporate real estate owners looking to convert traditional space into more flexible layouts, provide common, shared spaces as tenant amenities and partnering with shared space experts such as coworking space owners, to operationalize the spaces and optimize the community building within spaces.
How are more corporate entities adapting to workspace change? What are some setbacks for them and how have they changed for the better?
Corporate real estate owners are looking for models that fit their culture, provide flexibility for employees but that also compel them to spend some time at the corporate office. Genentech is a great example of a large company that has brought the principles of flexible, shared workspace into a state of the art corporate building. Their “Building 35” is a case study in the best current thinking in shared space design along with a corporate change management program to support the move. Landlords and REITs are struggling to shape their portfolios to fit the quickly changing demands of tenants for modern, flexible space.
As the GWA includes everything from hotels to coworking spaces how do you manage the relationship between such different types of industries?
There are a wide range of players in this space, including shared workspace owners, hospitality providers, building owners, corporate real estate users, and service providers that sell products and services to these groups. One of our roles is to connect the resources and approaches that one player uses and find if those would fit with another.
For example, the hotel experience for a member of a loyalty program has improved exponentially in the past few years with the addition of mobile check-in, keyless room entry, etc. We can think of this and ask: How does that member-centric, technology-supported mindset translate over to a workspace membership?
In the future, do you think we will be able to differentiate between coworking spaces and traditional offices or will all workspaces take on a similar aesthetic?
I think we’ll see a hybridization of workspaces. As we’re learning more about optimal design as well as optimal financial models, the current thinking is that variety supports both.