By Angel Kwiatkowski, Cohere
When the members of today’s workforce first entered college, it’s likely that their vision of professional success involved a three-piece suit and 30 minute morning commute. We grew up with this vision of “work” as a place we would stay for eight hours (or more) every day. We expected to drive ourselves to work in a nice car, and if living in a quiet neighborhood added 45 miles to our daily journey, it was a worthwhile sacrifice.
About a decade ago, statistics confirmed that many of us were living this dream. In late 2006, a report by the U.S. Transportation Research Board found that the number of workers with commutes lasting more than 60 minutes grew by nearly 50 percent between 1990 and 2000. The average commute was around 25 minutes, which works out to be around 100 hours a year. One hundred hours cursing at traffic and filling the atmosphere with tailpipe emissions. One hundred hours we could have been hugging our kids or reading a book. Sure, there were lots of things we’d rather do than spend an hour in the car every day, but it’s the only way to have the career we want, right? Wrong.
Fast-forward 10 years or so and something magical is happening to the U.S. workforce. The explosion of high speed Internet and a plethora of sophisticated communication technologies have given rise to the mobile workforce. Unlike their predecessors, these professionals aren’t tethered to their cubicles or the 9-5 workday. Research from 2010 showed that at least 44.4 million people worked outside the office at least once a year. By 2016, experts expect this number to grow to include 43 percent of the entire American workforce.
What does this mean? American workers (and employers) have changed their opinion about what “working” looks like, and where it happens. Business suits and 30-minute commutes are no longer necessary to ensure productivity. In fact, 66 percent of employers see increased productivity in their telecommuting employees, not to mention an annual savings of between $2,000 – $6,000 each.
So where are these telecommuters going if they’re not headed into the office every day? Some stay at home to work, although those with kids, pets, or lots of laundry to do find this to be distracting over time. When the walls start closing in, others head to a local coffee shop, but this is getting harder since some cafes have started to cover up their outlets to discourage table camping. Others (the really smart and lucky ones) have discovered coworking.
Coworking, a style of collaborative work where location-independent professionals share office space at drastically reduced prices, has exploded right alongside the telecommuting trend. In the past six years, it’s gone from a handful of spaces in the U.S. to thousands of coworking communities around the world.
So the question is, what is your company doing to keep up with the mobile workforce? No matter what your industry, chances are you interact with location independent professionals every day as customers, vendors, and contractors. Offering coworking to your own staff as a perk of employment can help keep your operating costs low as you expand. You’ll not only see increased productivity, but it will put you in position to form profitable partnerships with other local entrepreneurs. If you’re a business that prides itself on sustainability, coworking can help slash your carbon footprint, especially if it allows employees to commute by foot or bike instead of driving.