The Workplace Is Not Just One Place Anymore, But Will Employers Sign On?

Published: Tuesday, October 11, 2016 - 4:24pm
Updated: Tuesday, October 11, 2016 - 4:59pm

(Photo by Annika Cline - KJZZ)
Mod gives people the option to rent workspace by the hour.

Some days you might feel like Peter Gibbons and just want to get out of that Office Space.

Alternative workspaces are on the rise. If you have the choice, you might go for a comfy chair over a cubicle.

The trend is growing in places like one Central Phoenix coffee shop, where the atmosphere is loud and busy.

A lot of people there on a recent evening were really intent on getting work done. There might have been just as many laptops as coffee cups on the tables.

“I’m working on an essay,” explained Rachel Kirkpatrick, who sat with a couple other college students, also focused on work.

“I like the environment. I also like just change in scenery,” she said.

Her table mate agreed.

“I feel like it’s interesting to look at architecturally,” said Sunna Zaidi, a student and graphic designer. 

But if she's looking at her computer screen for work, why does the space around her matter?

“When there’s a space that naturally attracts good vibes, you tend to just have a little bit more of a flow. You give yourself breaks more and you enjoy them,” Zaidi said.

“Millennials in general like the idea of a new space,” Kirkpatrick said.

And she’s right, at least according to After College. That’s a company that connects students with employers. Last year, its annual survey showed 68 percent of respondents said the option to work remotely would increase their interest in an employer.

As these students got back to grind, Lynda Zugec explained why these remote workspaces are so popular. She’s a workforce consultant.  

“Basically the advent and increase of technologies that enable individuals to work remotely have shifted our past perceptions of what a workspace actually is, and it gives us more choice,” Zugec said.

When your main tool is a laptop, you no longer have to be confined to one cubicle in one building.

“I do see an increase overall in employers recognizing that this is not just sort of a passing fad,” Zugec said. “It will be a driver of their competitiveness in the future.”

And the options aren’t just coffee shops or working from home. Where there’s a need, there’s a business idea.

Mod is one of the many boutique workspaces that have popped up in recent years. You pay a fee, and Mod is your office for the day— like Airbnb for work.

“So what we’re trying to do is make it easy for people to take pleasure out of their workday. So things like natural light, healthy food, meditation, walking meetings,” said Ty Fishkind, hospitality manager at Mod Phoenix. 

And of course, coffee. They find what people like about alternative workspaces like their favorite coffee shop, and combine it with what people like about offices. It’s quiet and professional.

“A space like this gives you the ability to have those one on one meetings, whether it’s a group scenario where we’re flying people in, we’re able to have those meetings in an office space,” said Robert Van Arlen.

He’s a business coach and speaker, and he needs his workspace to be as flexible as his schedule.

“So one day we may have four of our executive team members here, and then the next day we may have one or two,” Van Arlen said. “And we all travel all the time, so just having that flexibility, it’s kind of like a condo - you can lock and leave it.”

And when you do leave it, there are a bunch of websites to help you find more of these types of workspaces for rent. 

Lynda Zugec said some employers are hesitant to unleash their employees from the central hub.

“When people work remotely you don’t really have a firm handle on what might be going on with individuals, and how they’re communicating with each other or as a group,” Zugec said.

That can be hard for startups that begin in flexible workspaces, but outgrow them. And of course, there are lots of businesses that are location-specific. Those employees can’t just take a laptop and head out. So Zugec said the solution is to bring what people like about alternative workspaces into the traditional office building.

“Spaces that are a little bit more lounge-like and employees can move freely through that, that’s really ideal,” she said.

It goes back to that vibe the students at the coffee shop were talking about. It’s hard to put your finger on, but you know it when you feel it. 

“Being here definitely does wonders for me. And it’s nice to feel comfortable in the space that you work at,” Zaidi said.

The students want that flexibility after college, too. The question is whether their future employers will be ready to meet that demand.

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