Lin Miao

The era of cubicles and water coolers is coming to an end.

As businesses adapt to the increasingly specific needs of today’s consumer, the office environment is also evolving to meet the needs of today’s workforce. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the startup tech industry and co-working world.

The current generation of tech-savvy entrepreneurs is seeking environments that accommodate a highly competitive yet creative lifestyle, with the least economic impact on their company. They’re working 24/7 for their startup so they chafe at the constraints of a 9-to-5 workweek.

Instead of renting offices, they’re embracing the hottest trend in business: co-working spaces.

A co-working space is an open-access, turnkey environment designed to be an affordable office alternative for startups, freelancers and other independent workers. Worldwide, it’s estimated that there are nearly 2,500 co-working spaces as of early 2013, up 83 percent from the year before.

They serve nearly 110,000 workers and approximately 245 new people join a co-working space each day.

So why are co-working spaces poised to replace the traditional office?

Co-working culture fits today’s creative entrepreneurial lifestyle

Step inside a co-working space and it’s hard to avoid a creative contact high. By bringing together a diverse community of business innovators and creative talent like designers and developers, co-working spaces are a hub of inspiration.

Most co-working spaces host special events where members can share their experience and skills. It’s a perfect environment for young startup entrepreneurs to network, practice their VC pitches or collaborate on new projects.

Deskmag, an online journal about co-working spaces and co-working culture, surveyed workers who reported significant increases in productivity and morale since joining a co-working space. While 71 percent of those surveyed said they felt more creative, 90 percent felt more confident and 70 percent told Deskmag that co-working even made them feel healthier!

Co-working makes more financial sense for startups and small businesses

When you’re starting a business, every penny counts. Renting a traditional office space means security deposits, insurance, utilities and other setup fees — not to mention the cost of furnishings. This can be a tremendous barrier to entry, especially for startups at the critical pre-seed development stage. 

A co-working space essentially provides an instant office for the price of two cups of coffee a day. Deskmag estimates the average cost of a flexible (or “hot”) desk at a co-working space in the U.S., is just $195 a month. Memberships generally include everything entrepreneurs and independent workers need, like conference rooms and WiFi.

Additionally, co-working spaces tend to be strategically located in a city’s major industry center, allowing convenient access for members as well as potential clients or investors.

Co-working spaces will make offices obsolete

By 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 65 million Americans will be independent contractors or solo entrepreneurs — that’s about 40 percent of the workforce. Co-working spaces are already anticipating this shift. Soon, freelancers and tech startups won’t be the only ones abandoning traditional offices for co-working.

With their economic, social and creative live/work advantages, co-working spaces will dominate the business landscape in the next decade. If you’re starting a business, start co-working.

Lin Miao is the founder of Be Great Partners. After selling his first company for $60 million at age 24, Miao launched Be Great Partners and currently serves as the company’s CEO. For more information, visit www.begreat.co.