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Co-working trend offers conducive space to conduct business while not paying traditional rentals

Fads come and go but one that looks set to stay in 2019 is that of shared workspaces, or co-working.

The idea behind co-working is to provide a conducive space for businesses and entrepreneurs to conduct business, without having to pay the traditional fixed office space rental.

Said to have started in 2005, and having grown in leaps and bounds since then, co-working as a trend in South Africa is not going anywhere any time soon, and will continue to shake up the property industry in the country, says Gregg Huntingford, chief executive of Spire Property Management.

Huntingford recently attended a global Corfac conference that saw experts from an international network of real estate brokerage firms come together to share knowledge and insights into the property sector. One of the topics under discussion at the conference was that of collaborative/shared work spaces as a growing trend.

Sharing some insights from there, he says: “Some commentators say that the number of co-working spaces available is estimated to double by the year 2020. Flexible workspace is not just for freelancers or start-ups any more – now we are seeing large, multinational companies occupying co-working spaces. We will continue to see a shift in attitude towards office space to the point that people will regard the availability of this space as an on-demand service rather than a fixed item.”

But what does this mean for the future of commercial buildings? According to Huntingford, the trend is providing “great opportunity” for building owners.

“Owners are revitalising underused spaces and transforming them into shared work areas that are increasingly in demand. Large vacancies that would have stayed vacant – thereby not earning the owners a return, while waiting for a suitable tenant looking to take extensive office space are now being leased as co-working spaces.”

As an example, he says Spire recently was involved in the lease of 3500m² of vacant office space in the southern suburbs of Cape Town to a well-known shared office space provider.

“For Cape Town, this represents a significant area to let as a single unit which highlights the value of such an offering.

“It also creates a wonderful symbiotic relationship with other occupants in the building.”

However, if South Africa continues to follow international time lines, then our commercial office buildings will need to stay current by creating shared office spaces that attract people wanting to connect and collaborate.

Huntingford adds: “Collaboration is a watchword for the way forward for businesses in general – the sharing of knowledge and business intelligence.”

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