Posted on January 24, 2018

Technology Must Keep Pace with The Rise of Co-Working Spaces

Phil Bloomberg

Vice President of Commercial Sales

Young Office Workers Sitting at the Table with Laptop ComputerWhile co-working space isn’t a new concept, it’s certainly seen a sharp increase in popularity over the past several years. There was a time when co-working spaces were mainly the domain of the young tech sector and solopreneurs. But as we enter 2018, co-working spaces are being sought by all types of workers, across all types of industries.

Today, a large percentage of remote employees, independent entities, contract and freelance workers are capitalizing on the explosion of this trend. According to 2014 statistics from the Freelancers Union, independent workers make up about 34 percent of the total American workforce.

The number of co-working spaces has increased 700 percent globally since 2011. So, why the seemingly sudden explosion? Besides the obvious benefits to businesses in offering greater flexibility than traditional office leases, there are tangible benefits to workers as well. And we’re not just talking about perks like free snacks, chair massages, or an endless supply of coffee or La Croix.

Studies show that those who travel to co-working office spaces are happier, healthier and more productive than those who work independently or work strictly from a home office. A recent survey of workers that use these spaces found that 68 percent said they felt more productive, and 71 percent said they felt more creative when compared with working in a solo environment.

Technology expectations

With freelancers projected to comprise 40 percent of the workforce by 2020, it’s a safe bet that co-working spaces are here to stay. And as the rise of co-working spaces continues, all eyes will be on the technology that makes them tick. After all, with office space lessees paying big bucks for these swanky spaces — they average $139 per square foot — they expect the technologies that underpin their efficiencies to be top-notch.  

With co-working consumers expecting more, managers and operators of these modern spaces must take seriously their obligation to better integrate technology into the everyday experience. While flashy “nice-to-have” amenities are appealing to many co-working space consumers, tangible services that balance cost and efficiency are a must-have for those spaces that want to remain competitive.

As we hear more and more about the Internet of Things, office tenants are coming to expect the same technological integrations that many enjoy in their own homes when it comes to streamlining various tasks and functions. Of course, this requires the connectivity to enable various systems to exchange data with one another. Workers want the ability to schedule desks, make conference room reservations and network with the co-working space community.

As the line between professional and personal lives blur with a younger generation, millennials and others also expect easy access to the social and sharing apps that are part of their daily lives. They want strong mobile connection on their devices to do things like stream their music while they work. With Spotify gaining 10 million new members every six months, the reality that these apps are part of the workplace can’t be ignored.

The challenge of keeping ‘coworkers’ connected in large spaces

Maintaining connectivity can be a challenge, particularly in large spaces where co-working facilities aim to streamline all manner of processes, from printing to secure email, and Web access that enables lighting speeds. Unfortunately these large spaces are often plagued by weak cellular signals or areas that are complete dead zones.

Building materials including brick, concrete, and steel are notorious cell signal obstructors. With co-working spaces increasingly aiming for the modern look and feel, these are all common materials in these spaces. Generally speaking, reception will always be better outside a building than inside. The challenge for these co-working spaces is how to bring that strong signal inside for consistent and reliable connectivity for all of the operations occurring within the space.  

Cellular signal boosters, or amplifiers, are the best way to solve this problem. These systems use a passive distributed antenna system — aka, passive DAS — which captures strong outdoor cellular signal and brings it indoors. These boosters use antennas to detect any existing signal outside the building and bring it indoors. Then, the booster amplifies the signal and broadcasts it inside the building, bringing a better signal to all of the devices within a co-working space that rely on strong signal and connectivity.

For voice calls and uploads, the boosters work the opposite way, transmitting an amplified signal from your phones within the building back outside to the cell tower. These boosters are carrier-agnostic, which means it doesn’t matter how many different carriers the tenants in a co-working space use.

Depending on the size of the interior space, a passive DAS can be installed throughout, or installed in specific zones where it is most critical. These boosters offer an effective and affordable alternative to traditional active DAS solutions, which require intricate fiber-optic and cable installations that must be hard-wired throughout the co-working space.

Connectivity gives co-working spaces a competitive edge

There’s no doubt more and more organizations will continue to capitalize on co-working spaces in 2018 and beyond to suit their needs. A majority of companies are already encouraging remote or work-from-home employees to join these co-working spaces in order to reap all of the benefits mentioned earlier, including productivity and creativity.  

In the coming years the option of using co-working space will also help companies to attract and retain talent. Therefore, it’s imperative that the technology considerations for these spaces are a main focus. If you’re a manager or operator of a co-working space and you’re interested in improving the connectivity in your building with a passive DAS solution to reap all of the technology benefits your tenants expect, and remain competitive in this growing space, WilsonPro can help. Contact us today for more information.